Teammates thrilled for Moustakas’ return to Brewers

PHOENIX — NL MVP Christian Yelich tweeted a GIF of a leaping Moose.

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The Milwaukee Brewers were excited to know Mike Moustakas is sticking around for 2019.

“I’ve known Mikey forever, since he was a little kid,” said Ryan Braun, who like Moustakas grew up and resides in Southern California. “He came here last year, fit in seamlessly, performed for us really well on the field. Obviously, became a big part of our culture in the locker room as well.

Yelich, also a Southern California resident, spent the offseason working out with Braun and Moustakas and also teamed with them to organize relief efforts following last fall’s California’s wildfires.

“Great competitor, great teammate, big contributor to us down the stretch,” Yelich said. “It’s good to have him back, and he just brings that edge, that mentality back to the clubhouse, a winning culture and how to play the game the right way. It’s important, and guys like him are important in this game.”

Manager Craig Counsell had planned to have Travis Shaw play third and for Hernan Perez, Tyler Saladino and Cory Spangenburg to compete for time at second. Shaw moved across the infield to second after Moustakas was acquired from Kansas City last July.

Counsell wants to see during spring training whether Moustakas can transition to second. Shaw said Milwaukee discussed the possibility of bringing Moustakas back with him and that while he hopes to stay at third base, he is willing to move again.

“It was kind of a hypothetical situation but now that it’s real, we’ll see what the plan is,” Shaw said. “As of right now, I still plan to try to play third base.”

Moustakas’ return gives the Brewers another left-handed power threat along with Shaw, Yelich and catcher Yasmani Grandal, a switch-hitter who had 20 home runs and an .844 OPS against right-handers last season.

“We faced roughly 120 right-handers and 40 left-handers from a starting pitcher perspective,” Counsell said. “There’s four left-handers in our division, probably, if you map out the rotations. So I think we have some answers left-handed.”

Moustakas batted .256 with 8 home runs and 33 RBIs in 54 regular season games for Milwaukee. After going 4 for 11 with two RBIs in the NL Division Series against Colorado, he struck out 12 times in 31 plate appearances during the Championship Series loss to the Dodgers, including the pennant-winning out for Los Angeles.

“You kind of got a glimpse of what he did last year for us,” said Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain, a former Kansas City teammate. “He’s going to bring leadership and toughness to this team. He has all of that and we all know what he can do on the field. I’ve been around him for a while, so I understand what he can do and what he brings.”