Brewers’ Braun says he’s making progress after back surgery
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The makeover at Miller Park means outfielder Ryan Braun keeps moving up in seniority in the Brewers clubhouse.
At 32 and entering his 10th season in the majors, Braun seems to be embracing the youth movement in Milwaukee. He hopes to be back at 100 percent by the time the regular season starts following offseason back surgery.
“It’s an interesting time for us,” Braun said Sunday. “But I think we have probably more potential young, impact players than we’ve had in a long time, probably since I’ve been part of the organization.”
The Brewers’ best player is also realistic.
“But in the near term, certainly a lot of change and continuing transition, I think,” Braun said at the team’s annual winter fan outreach event at a downtown convention center.
The afternoon of autographs and meet-and-greets with players and coaches might be one of the highlights of what will likely be a challenging year.
General manager David Stearns is busily reshaping the roster more than three months after taking the job. On Saturday, Stearns dealt shortstop Jean Segura and pitcher Tyler Wagner to Arizona for infielder Aaron Hill, pitcher Chase Anderson and an infield prospect.
With three weeks to go until spring training, Stearns may not yet be done.
“At this point, we’re comfortable with where we are from an offseason perspective,” Stearns said. Still, “player transactions never end, we’re always talking.”
One of the most important priorities for the Brewers is getting Braun back in top shape to anchor the lineup. Scoring could be an issue even when the slugger is playing.
Braun said he just got cleared to do rotational exercises two weeks ago, and started hitting last week. He estimated that he was a couple weeks behind his typical offseason schedule.
Brewers’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Phoenix on Feb. 19, with the rest of the team due two days later.
“Oh, I won’t be 100 percent at the start of spring training, no,” Braun said. “I think it will kind of be a gradual process to work my way back to 100 percent. But I feel pretty good.”
At least Braun doesn’t seem to be bothered by the nerve injury near the base of his right thumb that hampered him the last couple years. He needed therapy to help with the thumb last year. The treatment helped after Braun bounced back by hitting .285 with 25 homers and 84 RBIs.
“We certainly anticipate that he’s going to be healthy and ready to go to start the spring and start the season,” Stearns said.
The roster could certainly look much different by the end of the season after the minor league system was restocked with a series of deals. The renovations started at the trade deadline last summer under former general manager Doug Melvin.
One of the jewels of the system is shortstop Orlando Arcia, who Stearns said he anticipates starting the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs. The trade of Segura won’t change Arcia’s developmental timeline, Stearns said.
But the Brewers are confident that Craig Counsell, who is entering his first full year as skipper, can deftly guide the young team.
“The one thing I think is important is that I’m not putting limits on anything. ... We’re not putting any limits on any expectations,” Counsell said. “That’s what it is no matter what position the experts or anybody else tells you (that) you are in.”
NOTE: Asked about what approach he would take to the spring, pitcher Matt Garza said “he was going to pitch for me. ... I’m not going to change my team mentality, but individually I’m pitching for me. I’m going to be a little selfish and pitch for me and pitch to win for me.” In 2015, Garza was 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA, his worst season since his rookie year in 2006.
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