Hard-hitting Thames making a splash in first season back in majors
MILWAUKEE — Eric Thames is bashing his way into the Milwaukee Brewers record book.
No adjustment period necessary for the bushy-bearded first baseman in his first season back in the majors after three years playing ball in Korea.
With two more home runs on Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, Thames upped his major league-leading home run total to 10. He also tied a franchise record with his 10th homer in April.
The Reds must already by sick of Thames, who has seven homers in five games against Cincinnati pitching.
“It is crazy with baseball,” the left-handed slugger said after Milwaukee’s 11-7 win Monday. “There are some teams that somehow the ball finds your barrel and there are some teams where you get a good pitch and you swing and it is a foul ball or a strikeout. I don’t know.”
Most baseball fans had no idea how Thames’ success overseas would translate to the majors. He hit .348 with 124 home runs, 379 RBI and 64 steals in 388 games in three seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Brewers signed Thames in November to a $16 million, three-year contract. In need of more lefties in the lineup, they cut right handed-hitting first baseman Chris Carter after a 41-homer season that tied for the National League lead to go with Thames.
But Thames had an unremarkable initial stint in the majors, hitting .250 with 21 homers with Toronto and Seattle from 2011 to 2013. The Blue Jays drafted Thames in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Thames has said he learned how to be patient while playing in Korea because while pitchers there don’t throw as hard, they were able to locate their off-speed pitches.
Now he’s processing information about major-league pitching at a quick rate, making adjustments pitch by pitch.
“He’s not missing. As the saying goes, you may get one good pitch to hit in your at-bat, you don’t want to miss it,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s hit some good pitches too, but he doesn’t miss a mistake.”
The early success is also about feeling more confident in his abilities and having more fun over the last three years.
In January, during his first interaction with Brewers fans on a winter caravan event, Thames spoke about looking forward to the little things again like being able to speak more English with teammates, and playing cards in the clubhouse. He said he felt humble to be back in the majors. An affable personality also lends to the appearance of Thames feeling at ease in Milwaukee.
“In Korea and here, I’m just going to do my job and work as hard as I can so come game time I can relax and let it all go,” Thames said.
Among other notable tidbits:
–He broke the Brewers record with 10 homers in the team’s first 21 games, passing Rob Deer (nine in 1987).
–Going into Tuesday’s action, he has reached base at least three times in seven games.
–He has reached base in 17 of his 19 games.
“It is amazing when stress levels decrease you actually have fun and be loose and are able to relax,” Thames said. “It is crazy.”