PHOENIX (AP) — Christian Yelich had waited around long enough. He was ready to get back to work.
The reigning NL MVP arrived at the Milwaukee Brewers’ spring training facility Friday morning, four days before the team’s first scheduled full-squad workout, set to build on a memorable 2018 season.
“It’s nice to get out here a couple of days early, get everything set up and organized,” Yelich said. “I’m ready to start playing some baseball again.”
Thanks to the Brewers’ deep postseason run, Yelich’s offseason was shorter than he’s used. Because of his personal success, much of the time he’d normally spend resting, recovering and preparing for the next season was spent fulfilling other duties and obligations, such as a trip to New York to accept the MVP award.
Still, Yelich insists that he, and the team, will be ready to go when the regular season gets underway late next month.
“Just to be back in this room and get those feelings of spring training … I think there’s a lot of excitement at this time of year for not only myself but everybody,” the outfielder said. “Everybody has the excitement of a new season, and you really never know what you’re going to see in these next seven or eight months. I found out firsthand last year.”
Yelich was the new kid on the block for Milwaukee last year. Acquired from Miami in a trade in late January, he spent his first few days of camp just trying to learn his new teammates’ names. Before long, he established himself as a household name in Milwaukee after batting an NL-best .326 with 36 home runs, 110 RBIs and a 1.000 OPS.
No longer a Brewers newcomer, Yelich still had to adjust to new surroundings when he reported to camp. The Brewers razed and rebuilt their spring training complex over the last year, complete with a brand new, expansive clubhouse along with improved workout and treatment facilities.
“Our new facility is amazing,” Yelich said. “It’s great to be back and I’m excited for the year.”
Figuring out where to go over the next six weeks isn’t the only challenge Yelich faces this season. His performance last year set the bar high for 2019, especially the 1.307 OPS he posted during the month of September, when the Brewers wiped out a five-game deficit before clinching the NL Central crown by beating the Cubs in a winner-take-all Game 163 at Wrigley Field.
It would be easy for any young player, especially one as talented as the 27-year-old Yelich, to consider any kind of drop-off in numbers to be something of a letdown. Manager Craig Counsell has already stressed the importance on focusing on what’s next, instead of looking back at what’s happened, and he’s made sure to discuss that topic specifically with Yelich.
“Sometimes, chasing the past, for any player, can get you in trouble,” Counsell said. “It’s the combination of ‘I have something different in front of me’ with the experience that puts you in a good place. That’s exactly the place I think he is in.”
Yelich is embracing Counsell’s message and is well aware of the challenge in front of him in 2019.
“A lot of people’s favorite words in baseball right now are ‘regression’ and ‘coming back to the mean’ or whatever you want to say,” Yelich said. “I hope that’s not the case. I don’t plan on it being the case. I think you just prepare the way you’ve always prepared and go about the game the same way and see where you stand at the end of the year.”