Brewers’ Yelich seeks health, return to 2018-19 form

PHOENIX – Christian Yelich has been through highs and lows in his four seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s ready for another high, and even with the lockout feels ready to get back to his old self.

“This year feels more like a regular spring training,” Yelich said Thursday before the Brewers played the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

The 2018 MVP and 2019 runner-up was on a run to greatness. He hit 36 homers in 2018 and 44 more in 2019 before a broken right kneecap ended his season after 130 games.

The last two seasons have been a struggle. In 2020, a 60-game season, Yelich hit just .205 but did have 12 home runs, commensurate with his previous full-season totals. Last season, his batting average bounced back up to .248, but in 117 games the left fielder managed only nine home runs. He was out five weeks with a back injury and his slugging percentage, a major league-leading .671 in 2019, fell all the way to .373.

Still, the 30-year-old Yelich has maintained the same, steady personality on the field and in the clubhouse, and his goals remain relatively simple.

“Stay healthy, help our team win, and get back to the postseason,” said Yelich, who has become used to playoff baseball since the Brewers acquired him from Miami before the 2018 season.

The Brewers have reached the postseason four years in a row, though Milwaukee was eliminated in its first series in each of the past three years.

One of Yelich’s new teammates knows all about what he’s facing and expects him to rebound. Like Yelich, Andrew McCutchen has won an MVP award.

“I look forward to him having a really good season, and I look forward to us challenging each other to be better every single day,” the veteran outfielder said Thursday.