Two days in a row for the first time this season. Expect that a lot this year on my annual “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” countdown to Opening Day because between now and Scooter Gennett on April 3rd there aren’t a whole lot of consecutive days off. In point of fact there are only four unaccounted for numbers (3, 23, 53, 59) if Spring Training were to begin today. (Okay, five, but 17 just isn’t getting assigned. More on that later.)
But that’s information for another day. Today on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 we sit 62 days away from Opening Day at Miller Park. So enough about the unassigned numbers and other players for today belongs to the player who dons #62 for his time in big league Spring Training…
Once considered a top prospect by most (if not all) respected places that rank such things, Garin Cecchini saw a fall from grace in 2015. A career .298 hitter in four minor league seasons, Cecchini got his first taste of Triple-A in 2014 and held his own reasonably well, slashing .263/.341/.371 in 458 plate appearances. MLB Pipeline had Cecchini ranked as the third-best prospect in the minor system of the Boston Red Sox (who drafted Cecchini in the 4th round of the 2010 draft out of high school in Louisiana), and the 55th-best in all of the minor leagues. His game was predicated on bat-to-ball skills, contact rate, patience, and consistency. Cecchini even earned himself a trip to the big leagues which came on June 1, 2014. His MLB debut was fine if statistically insignificant.
Then 2015 happened.
“I had a tough year last year, but it all happens for a reason, ” Cecchini told me at the annual Brewers On Deck fan fest which took place on January 31. “I think it’s exactly the reason I got to Milwaukee. I honestly think the only way I was expendable [to the Red Sox] was if I had the worst year of my life and I had the worst year of my life.”
Boston’s sacrifice could be resurrected in Milwaukee. The Brewers have long struggled to develop top flight prospects at the hot corner. It’s why they signed Aramis Ramirez, who never had to fear for his job while in town, before the 2012 season. Nobody was within shouting distance of Ramirez for the big league spot. And the cast of characters who filled in for Ramirez on days off and then after he was traded to Pittsburgh in July is either young (Hernan Perez, Yadiel Rivera), or some combination of unimpressive and no longer with the organization (Hector Gomez, Elian Herrera, Luis Jimenez, Jason Rogers, Luis Sardiñas). Suffice it to say that despite a handful of competitors, it’s not like the next primary third baseman is going to have to shoehorn his way into the job.
However the first thing that Cecchini must do is distance himself from 2015’s results and become the player he was before he was deemed “expendable.”
“Honestly, I’m not supposed to hit [.213]. I think I’m a better player than that as the past has shown.” Cecchini reiterated that he thinks 2015 happened for a reason and that with the Brewers is where he’s supposed to be. “I wouldn’t be in Milwaukee if I had hit .300, I guarantee you that.”
Cecchini knows he is going to have to compete in Spring Training and he’s ready to separate himself from the pack.
“Just go out and play the game I know how to play. It’s been like that my whole career. You have to compete for something. You never want to be given anything. I’m more confident than ever. I feel back to what I was in ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14. I had a tough year last year…but I learned from it and I’m glad to be here.”
So what didn’t work?
“I learned on why I had the worst year of my life. Last year I tried to do some new stuff just on my own with a leg kick, coming forward and that’s not the type of hitter I am.” Asked what he needs to do to be his old self, Cecchini said, “Being simple; overly simple in the box. Just going up there and hitting, staying behind the ball. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. Last year…is not the type of hitter I am. I didn’t work. Learn from it and move on.”
The bottom line for Cecchini as he looks forward to 2016 can be summarized thusly:
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to go out there and be the Garin Cecchini I’ve been my whole life…until last year.”
All that and he’s still just 24 years old. He’s ready to prove that he can perform at the highest levels of this game. The excitement was evident on his face and in his voice as we chatted for about six minutes on Sunday. And it’s not just about the new team.
One more thing that has Cecchini excited is that he gets to go back to his natural position full time. With a smile on his face he said, “I was told ‘Work strictly at third.'” Cecchini said he’s been working hard on his craft and has been taking ground balls every day thanks to the nice weather at home in Louisiana.
As for being number 62, Cecchini said that if he had his choice of any one to wear “it would have to be 17. I’ve always liked that number. I’ve had family members wear the number.” I informed him that while not official, 17 in Milwaukee is virtually retired as it has yet to be given out since long-time wearer Jim Gantner retired following the 1992 season and 15 years in the number. Understandably, Cecchini replied that “any number would be fine.”
I can’t say that I disagree because getting a number on or after April 4th would mean that he’ll be playing with said number on his back but with a big league logo on his chest.
You can follow Garin on Twitter: @GarinCecchini
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