MILWAUKEE -- Craig Counsell decided he'd rather be a backup
for his hometown team than a starter someplace else.
Counsell returned to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday,
agreeing to a $6 million, two-year contract. Counsell is a native
of the Milwaukee area and played for the Brewers in 2004.
He drew interest from the San Diego Padres, potentially as a
starting second baseman. But his decision became easy when Brewers
general manager Doug Melvin called.
"It's a great situation for my family because I have three
little kids," Counsell said. "This is Milwaukee. This is where I
grew up. I've always loved the Brewers, and getting a chance to
come home again was very appealing."
"Rickie, J.J. and Corey are the starters, but all three have
had injury issues," Counsell said. "Doug didn't promise me
playing time, but I'm sure there will be opportunities. I could've
gone to San Diego and been a starter at second base, and it was
very tough to pass on that. I know it will be better for the
organization if those three young guys play all the time, but I'm
ready to back them up."
Counsell played for Milwaukee in 2004. The 36-year-old spent the
last two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"We saw what he did here before a couple years ago," Melvin
said. "We have a young team and we think his veteran leadership
will fit in perfectly. The same reasons why we got him a few years
ago are why he's back again. He can play shortstop and he's a
left-handed bat, both of which will really help us. I think his
situation is similar to Billy Hall's last year at this time."
With Counsell on the roster, Melvin said Hall will concentrate
on the outfield.
Counsell gets $2.8 million in each of the next two seasons, and
the Brewers get a $3.4 million option for 2009 with a $400,000
buyout. If Counsell is traded, he also gets a $2.8 million player
option for 2009.
A member of two World Series championship teams, Counsell has a
.260 career batting average of with 31 home runs, 283 RBI and 90
stolen bases over 11 major league seasons with Colorado (1995, 97),
Florida (1997-99), Los Angeles (1999), Arizona (2000-03, 2005-06)
and Milwaukee (2004).
He scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning
in the 1997 World Series for Florida, and was MVP of the 2001 NL
championship series for Arizona.
He'd like to see something similar happen in Milwaukee.
"Why can't the Brewers be the team like Detroit that turns it
around next year? It would be pretty thrilling to be a part of the
first team here to make the playoffs since '82. That would be
pretty rewarding," Counsell said.
Counsell batted .255 last season with four homers and 30 RBI in
105 games, playing mostly at shortstop. He spent six weeks on the
disabled list with a broken right rib -- an injury he said happened
in a game against the Brewers -- and saw limited playing time behind
rookie shortstop Stephen Drew after he returned.
"I got hit by a pitch just before the All-Star break and broke
a rib swinging against the Brewers just after the break, but that's
fine now," Counsell said. "I really wouldn't have thought I could
come back again, but I think this is a great fit."