Brewers’ Keston Hiura getting crash course at first base

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Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura couldn’t ever remember playing first base during a game in high school, college or the professional ranks before this year.

Yet that’s where he’ll be most often this season.

Hiura had been Milwaukee’s starting second baseman for the last two years but is moving to first as the Brewers make room for newly acquired Kolten Wong at second.

“A lot of people have been giving me tips and I’ve just constantly been asking questions because I’m just trying to figure out where to be in every single position, whether it’s fielding a ground ball or taking a cut-off,” Hiura said from the Brewers’ spring training site at Phoenix. “It’s just to keep your mind working for every single situation that could come up.”

The first step was finding a mitt. Hiura didn’t want to start the season with a brand-new first baseman’s mitt that hadn’t been broken in. For now, he’s borrowing the first baseman’s mitt of teammate Travis Shaw, who has played both third and first.

“When you get a new glove, it takes a while for it to break in, especially with a first-base glove, you’ve got a lot of leather going into that,” Hiura said. “Obviously with me never breaking in a first baseman’s glove in my life, that definitely is going to take some time, kind of understanding how I want it to be broken in, how I want to form it in my hand, how I want it to close.”

Plenty of players have shifted from second base to first base.

Hall of Famer Rod Carew made that transition midway through his career. Pete Rose started at second base but moved to third and the outfield before landing at first. Colorado’s Ryan McMahon and D.J. LeMahieu of the New York Yankees are active second basemen who also have played first at times.

Hiura’s situation is unusual because he’s making this switch so early in his career. He’s only 24 years old.

The Brewers are giving him plenty of opportunities to adjust to the demands required of his new position. Monday marks the ninth time in 15 exhibitions that Hiura has been the Brewers’ starting first baseman.

Hiura noted that “it’s kind of been all hands on deck” as plenty of Brewers officials instruct him about what to expect. That list includes manager Craig Counsell, bench coach Pat Murphy, third-base coach Jason Lane and Matt Erickson, the manager of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers who serve as Milwaukee’s Single-A Midwest League affiliate.

“We are throwing something very new at Keston,” Counsell said. “He is diligently working at it and doing really good at it from our perspective.”

Generously listed as 6 feet, Hiura isn’t as tall as the typical first baseman. But the Brewers believe his background at second base will give him exceptional range.

The Brewers are counting on this move to make them better even with Hiura adjusting to a new position.

Wong, a Gold Glove winner each of the last two seasons with St. Louis, represents a defensive upgrade over Hiura at second base. Moving Hiura to first base keeps his bat in the lineup.

Although Hiura batted just .212 with an NL-high 85 strikeouts last season, he hit .303 with a .938 OPS as a rookie in 2019. He has 32 homers in 531 career at-bats.

Hitting coach Andy Haines expects Hiura to bounce back.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he’s really an elite hitter,” Haines said. “So, with that being said, sometimes it can be really simple. When Keston’s right, the way they’re attacking him is not of the utmost importance more than him being right and dialed in. He’s learned more than any other player can learn in the last year and a half.”

Notes: CF Lorenzo Cain is expected to play Saturday as he works his way back from a quadriceps injury. Counsell said Cain is still on track to be ready for the start of the season. … Counsell said RHP Adrian Houser will remain on his normal schedule. Houser left Sunday’s game early with what the team described as right thumb discomfort. … OF Derek Fisher injured his left hamstring Sunday and probably won’t play this week.

Yankees’ Judge heads on road still at 61 homers; 4 games left

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NEW YORK – Aaron Judge won’t break the American League home run record at Yankee Stadium, remaining at 61 as New York headed on the road for its final four regular-season games after a 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Judge struck out three times and walked once, disappointing a crowd of 44,332 that watched the Yankees regular-season home finale in rain for much of a chilly, blustery afternoon. New York finishes the regular season with four games at Texas, starting Monday night.

Judge took a called third strike from rookie Kyle Bradish leading off the first inning, then couldn’t check his swing and stranded the bases loaded when he struck out on a curveball in the second. He walked in the fifth and fanned against Bryan Baker in the seventh, dropping to 1 for 7 with six strikeouts, five walks and a hit batter since hitting No. 61 at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012, Judge tops the AL with 130 RBIs. His batting average fell to .311, four points behind league leader Luis Arraez of Minnesota.

Baltimore (82-77) guaranteed its first winning season since 2016. The Orioles went 52-110 last year and became the first team since at least 1900 to have a winning record one season after losing 110 or more.

AL East champion New York (97-61) took another hit to an injury-ravaged bullpen when Ron Marinaccio left while pitching to Jorge Mateo in the eighth. The Yankees will be without Clay Holmes until the playoffs because of rotator cuff inflammation, and Aroldis Chapman (3-4) was once again wild, walking three, including rookie Gunnar Henderson with the bases loaded, as Baltimore surged ahead in the seventh.

Chi Chi Gonzalez, a 30-year-old right-hander, made his Yankees debut after pitching for Minnesota and Milwaukee in the majors earlier this season. He threw to Jose Trevino, his batterymate at Oral Roberts in 2012 and ’13.

Gonzalez allowed one run, four hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Bradish gave up one run – unearned – three hits and five walks in five-plus innings.

Logan Gillaspie (1-0) pitched a scoreless sixth in his first big league decision, Baker struck out five while getting six straight outs, and Dillon Tate got three outs for his fifth save.

Ryan Mountcastle had an RBI double in the first. Aaron Hicks scored from second base in the fifth when Bradish bounced a wild pitch and catcher Adley Rutschman threw the ball into center for an error.

Cedric Mullins reached on an infield hit starting the seventh against Chapman, has walked 28 in 35 1/3 innings. After Chapman walked three of four batters, Austin Hays followed with a sacrifice fly off Marinaccio.

WEB GEMS

Yankees 3B Josh Donaldson made a backhand grab on Jorge Mateo’s bases-loaded grounder in the sixth and from foul territory made a strong throw for the inning-ending out. … Hicks saved two runs with a sprinting catch on Terrin Vavra‘s slicing liner near the left-field line in the seventh.

FOR THE BOOKS

New York went 57-24 at home, matching most wins at new Yankee Stadium. Baltimore was 38-43 on the road, up from 20-61.

IN THE SEATS

The Yankees drew 3,136,207 for 78 home dates, down from 3,304,404 in 2019, the last season before two years of COVID restrictions. They had 16 sellouts, up from 12 in 2019.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: RHP Felix Bautista may not pitch for the rest of the season because of the sore left knee he injured Friday.

Yankees: Matt Carpenter (broken left foot on Aug 8) will not work out initially in the outfield at the Somerset, New Jersey, training camp this week. He was moved to the 60-day IL on Sunday, ruling him out of the Texas series. … RHP Miguel Castro (strained shoulder) could be activated Monday. … LHP Wandy Peralta, sidelined since Sept. 18 with back tightness, threw a bullpen session and will face hitters at Somerset on Tuesday or Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer (6-8, 3.17) starts Monday’s opener of a season-ending series against visiting Toronto and Jose Berrios (11-7, 5.37)

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (6-3, 3.41) starts Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Texas and LHP Martin Perez (12-7, 2.93). After Wednesday, the Yankees have five off days before their Division Series opener at home on Oct. 11.