Last season could not have been worse for Ryan Braun. On the field, Braun battled a nagging thumb injury that forced him to go on the disabled list, and did not allow him to be the same player at the plate. But more importantly, Braun faced the constant rumors of his involvement with the Biogenesis lab. Initially, Braun denied involvement. When the suspension was finally handed down, Braun surprisingly changed his stance and quickly accepted the suspension without protest. He admitted that “mistakes had been made.”
This offseason, Braun has again admitted mistakes, but from his initial contact in front of Miller Park, Braun has not gone into detail. When he first reported to Maryvale Park for spring training, the national media got their first crack at him. But again, Braun refused to tell anything more that he did wrong and he is focused on the future.
While it is just a small sample size, Braun’s spring could not have gotten off to a better start. When stepping into the box for his first at-bat, Braun was showered with boos. He responded by hitting the second pitch he saw into the stands for a homerun. In his first seven at-bats, Braun had six hits, two homeruns, and an incredible .857 batting average.
With the trade of Nori Aoki, Braun will be asked to move to right field. This spring he has been working with former Brewer, Geoff Jenkins, who made a similar move late in his career with the Brewers. After seeing Braun work, he is confident that Braun will be fine with the move. He told Adam McCalvy at MLB.com that the move is not too different at all saying, “At the end of the day it’s just about getting to the ball quick, releasing the ball quick and hitting the cutoff man.” This move will also allow the slugging Khris Davis, to play in the lineup every day.
People may never know the truth about the details of Braun’s PED use, but he can only be judged on performance. He can begin to silence his critics by putting up a stellar performance on the field.
In the past when the Brewers have looked for a big hit, it has come from Braun. While he has only had a few at-bats this spring, Braun has taken the first step towards showing that he is still a stellar player. When healthy, Braun is one of the top hitters in the league. If he can continue to be an elite hitter when games count this season, the Brewers will immediately become contenders again. If he can’t, he becomes the clubs worst nightmare.
Statistics Provided by MLB.com