Posted on April 25, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
After surviving a stretch without Christian Yelich, the Milwaukee Brewers will now have to endure a period without first baseman Eric Thames. The Brewers added Thames to the 10-day DL Wednesday because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Thames suffered the injury Tuesday night while diving to stop a ground ball. While an exact timeline isn’t yet known, Thames figures to miss a significant chunk of the season.
“Obviously, it’s tough news for Eric today,” Brewers GM David Stearns said Wednesday. “It’s an injury we’ve seen in baseball before; it’s an injury that has a very good recovery rate. It’s an injury we know how to treat. Surgery is not definite but it’s probably likely.”
Stearns says that with surgery comes “a more concrete time frame for his return.” Mike Trout suffered a similar injury last year and ended up missing nearly seven weeks of action. However, Trout’s recovery was considered quicker than usual. It’s possible the injury could keep Thames out until late June or possibly early July.
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The loss of Thames for such an extended period of time figures to be a massive one for the Brewers. Thames has picked up right where he left off last season. He’s currently hitting .250 with an OPS of .976. In 22 games, Thames already has seven home runs after hitting 31 last year.
If there’s a silver lining for Milwaukee, it may be depth at first base. Jesus Aguilar split time with Thames at first base last year and was doing so again this season. He’s been scorching hot in limited playing time, going 15 for 35 (.429) early in the year. In a part-time role in 2017, Aguilar contributed 16 home runs and an OPS of .837. He provides a good insurance option for Milwaukee at first base.
Ryan Braun has also started a couple games at first base this season. With Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Domingo Santana capable of handling outfield duties, Braun could see increased time at first base as a way to get him in the lineup. After a sluggish start, Braun has started to heat up over the past week. He’s currently hitting .239 with an OPS of .775, contributing five home runs and 15 RBIs. Of course, he’s yet to prove he can be a viable defensive first baseman.
“We do think we’ve got some pretty good depth in that area,” said Stearns. “We’ve got guys who are swinging the bat pretty well who can play first base. So Eric is certainly going to be missed, but it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and play more regularly.”
The loss of Thames comes at a time when the Brewers are riding a seven-game winning streak. That streak has taken them to first place in the NL Central. They’ve managed to maintain that winning streak despite the absence of closer Corey Knebel, who was lost early in the year to a hamstring injury.
However, Thames is a significant addition to the injured list. With four teams in the NL Central within two games of one another, the Brewers playing without Thames for as much as two months could have a significant impact on the division race.