All-Star contender Braun ‘appreciative of support’

If Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun was surprised to rank so high on the first round of All-Star Game balloting results released Tuesday, he didn’t let on.

Braun, who has received not-so-friendly treatment at stadiums across the country, was running third among NL outfielders, meaning he’s in position to start his fifth consecutive Midsummer Classic. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp led NL outfielders (and all NL players, for that matter) in votes, and the Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran was second.

Braun had the fourth-most votes of all NL players.

“I’ve always been appreciative of people’s support. It’s always meant a lot to me,” he said. “It’s certainly not a priority. I’m trying to focus on getting healthy and helping our team get back to where we expect to be.”

Braun returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing Sunday’s start with right Achilles and hip issues.

Was there any uncertainty at all about where he’d rank in the first round of balloting results?

“It’s not something I’ve ever given a lot of thought to,” Braun said. “Like I said, I’ve always been appreciative of the support of the fans in All-Star voting. Beyond that, it’s not something I think about too much day-to-day. …

“The people here [in Wisconsin] have continued to support us in spit of the fact that we haven’t got off to a great start. That always means a lot. Things aren’t always going to go the way you want as a team, but the fact the fan base has continued to support us, continued to show up, and help create a great atmosphere here, helps us when we’re scuffling.”

Braun had to withdraw from last year’s All-Star Game because of a leg injury, and there remains the possibility that he’d have to bow out again. Braun injured his right Achilles logging his 100th career stolen base in San Diego on May 1, and since then has twice re-aggravated it. Over the weekend, he slid awkwardly on another steal and added a right hip strain to his Achilles issue.

Asked how he felt Tuesday, when he was back in his usual three-hole, Braun shrugged.

“I feel alright,” he said.

Might it bother him all year?

“I hope not,” Braun said. “You always hope it goes away, but any injury you deal with in the season, it rarely goes away completely. Look around the league. [Dustin] Pedroia has been dealing with his thing for a while, and it got worse. [Troy] Tulowitzki, [Matt] Kemp, a lot of guys. It’s really difficult to [make an injury] go away when you play every day and you play hard. I can’t control when I have to sprint after a ball or dive for a ball or slide into a base.”

He can control stolen bases, though Braun said adrenaline takes over at times, and he considers it “stupid” not to steal if an opposing pitcher is letting him do so.

“Whenever a guy is 1.5 [seconds] or slower to the plate, I’m going to be safe 99.9 percent of the time,” Braun said. “I’ll try to pick and choose my spots. I think it’s an important part of my game and an important part of our game, and there’s even more emphasis on it when you lose a guy like Prince [Fielder], because we have to find a way to manufacture runs.”

Braun was asked whether he’d considered the merits of simply shutting down for a week to let his injuries heal. He said he wasn’t sure a week would do it.

So, he’ll play on.

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Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

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