Brewers first baseman Eric Thames has had a torrid start to the 2017 season. He’s hitting .359 with eight homers, 14 RBIs, six doubles and a .461 OBP entering play April 24. That’s quite a start for a guy who spent the last three seasons playing in Korea.
And John Lackey has doubts. The Cubs righty said last week that Thames’ start “makes you scratch your head,” implying that Thames might be on PEDs.
Is that fair?
“I’m going to say this,” former AL MVP Mo Vaughn said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “One of my best friends in the game was Cecil Fielder. He went away from Toronto and went to Japan. I think when you go to Japan, the ball parks are smaller, you learn to get a lot of breaking balls and you got to stay on a ball. So when you come back and they start throwing that red at you, you really know how to hit. You get taught to hit in Japan because it’s a lot of breaking stuff. They really know how to pitch. So I don’t think it’s the testing. I think the kid went away, he’s already strong enough and learned how to hit and he’s doing some damage right now.”
Thames homered in five straight games April 13-17. He hit five bombs in four games in Cincinnati before tagging Lackey in a 6-3 Brewers win in Chicago on April 17.
“Listen, it all levels off, but I think he got a good base of hitting by going to Japan and hitting all that breaking stuff,” Vaughn said. “All of a sudden you start seeing that gas, you know what to do with it.”
Fielder is proof. He spent 1989 in Japan, returned to the bigs in 1990 and hit a career-high 51 homers that season. In 1991, he hit 44 homers with a career-high 133 RBIs.
“People get good,” Vaughn said. “You can learn. You can learn some stuff, and (Thames is) a powerful person. When I came up, I hit off my front foot. (Then) I hit off my (back foot) and I won an MVP. I hit 40 bombs, (hit) .300 (and had) 120 RBIs. So people can change.”