PHILADELPHIA -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is "hunting mistakes" instead of just swinging, according to his manager, who believes that's why the All-Star is off to such a solid start in 2011.

Braun singled in the first inning Wednesday and has reached safely in each of the Brewers' first 18 games. The Elias Sports Bureau says he is the first Brewers hitter to do so since Hall of Famer Paul Molitor reached in the first 19 games in 1991. The club record belongs to another Hall of Famer, Robin Yount, who reached safely in the Brewers' first 23 games in 1983.

"And he's got Prince [Fielder] behind him," manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's what's amazing."

Braun entered Wednesday batting .373 with a team-high five home runs, 12 RBIs and a .493 on-base percentage. After collecting two hits and two walks Tuesday against the Phillies' Roy Halladay, Braun said he was "proud" of his approach so far.

Roenicke also praised Fielder, who entered Wednesday batting .338 with three homers, 17 RBIs and a .419 on-base mark. It's all about hunting mistakes and largely refusing to swing at the rest, Roenicke said.

"If the two of those guys will do that, we're going to have a fun year," Roenicke said. "The best 3-4 combination I saw was Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. The reason they were the best was both of those guys would never chase balls out of the zone, even when people were on base.

"I would see Manny with a runner on third base, where everybody want to pick up that RBI, and you get 3-and-2 on him and throw a pitch two inches off the plate, he takes it, goes to first and then here's David Ortiz. They did that all the time. Over the course of the year, you score so many more runs when you do it that way."

Lack of options has Gomez in Crew's two-hole

PHILADELPHIA -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's defense of Carlos Gomez in the two-hole something like this: Who else is supposed to do it?

Gomez entered Wednesday's game against the Phillies with a .242 on-base percentage, 92 points below the average National League No. 2 hitter. But center field backup Nyjer Morgan remains sidelined by a right thigh bruise and regular right fielder Corey Hart is still working back from the disabled list, so Roenicke doesn't believe he has a better fit than Gomez.

"I saw a lot of improvement in Spring Training, and I know it's Spring Training, but, again, it's the quality of the at-bats," Roenicke said. "I saw him a lot when he was in Minnesota, and in Minnesota he was chasing a lot. Guys can change. ...

"It's being able to have that relaxed state he had in Spring Training. He knew he was going well, and that's why I say he still can do that in the regular season. Somehow, his mind has to get into that state again. Maybe it's moving him back seventh of eighth in the lineup to get him that way, I don't know."

There are some positive signs. According to the FanGraphs.com, Gomez is swinging at the fewest number of pitches outside the strike zone of his career -- 21.1 percent. Last season, he swung at 39.2 percent of pitches outside the zone.

Roenicke also argued that Gomez's defense -- he made two more nice running catches in Tuesday's win -- helps overcome some of his offensive shortcomings, and means he's going to remain the regular center fielder.

But Gomez could drop in the lineup after Hart returned from his Minor League rehabilitation assignment later this week. And, eventually, if the Brewers prefer Hart in a run-producing slot, catcher Jonathan Lucroy could be another option in the two-hole, Roenicke said. Lucroy had a .379 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues.

"I think he's going to be a good hitter -- so does [hitting coach Dale Sveum]," Roenicke said. "Just, right now, I don't want to do that to him. I want him to relax, I want him to worry about the pitching staff and get really comfortable with all that. We may come to a point, halfway through the season, where he can [hit second]."

Hawkins expected to be activated Friday

PHILADELPHIA -- LaTroy Hawkins threw one last pregame bullpen on Wednesday, and the Brewers are tentatively planning to activate him from the disabled list prior to Friday's homestand opener against the Astros.

Hawkins has not pitched for the Brewers since Aug. 10, about two weeks before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. He started this season on the DL and eventually made five appearances in the Brewers' Minor League system.

When Hawkins returns to active duties, the Brewers will gradually ease him back toward a late-inning role.

"I'd much rather do it that way than, 'Hey, you've got the eighth,' or 'You've got the seventh' in a tie ballgame,'" manager Ron Roenicke said. "Because he told me, 'My arm feels great, my command could get better.' If we can slide him in there somewhere that it's not on the line, I think it would help everybody."

Counsell's dad offers history lesson

PHILADELPHIA -- At age 40 and in his 1,527th Major League game, Craig Counsell played his first inning in the outfield on Tuesday night. The Brewers put him out there to give Ryan Braun a two-inning rest in a blowout win over the Phillies.

Counsell said afterward that it was "fun" to play the outfield for the first time, but his dad called Wednesday morning with a history lesson. John Counsell reminded Craig that he was a left fielder during his freshman season at Notre Dame in 1989. The Irish had a senior shortstop that season.

"He said I started 51 games in left field," Counsell said. "I don't know how he knows that."

Counsell borrowed Braun's outfield glove for the assignment, but did not have a ball hit his way.

Last call

Manager Ron Roenicke got a "great report" on Zack Greinke's first rehab start Tuesday night and said the right-hander would return to Milwaukee to throw a bullpen on Thursday's off-day. The Brewers have not announced plans for Greinke's next start, though Triple-A Nashville is at home on Sunday. ... Nyjer Morgan, who suffered a bruised thigh in a plate collision last week, and reliever Sergio Mitre, struck on the right triceps by a line drive Monday night, were still bothered by their injuries on Wednesday. Roenicke was hoping that Morgan would be back to regular availability for Friday's game at Miller Park. ... Outfielder Corey Hart played in his second game with Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday and went 0-for-3 before being removed in the middle of the sixth inning. He is hitless in the first five at-bats of his rehab from a left rib-cage strain.