July 2013

Attanasio releases statement

A statement from Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio:

“We are disappointed with the news today of the suspension of Ryan Braun and his admitted mistakes. It’s clear that Ryan used bad judgment, but we accept his apology and believe that he should be given the opportunity to redeem himself.

“We have always been and continue to remain strong supporters of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Testing Program, an initiative that strives to ensure the integrity of the game.”

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Teammates react to Braun suspension

Ryan Braun will not count against Milwaukee’s 40-man roster during his suspension and will be replaced on the 25-man roster Tuesday by Khris Davis, who is being called-up from Triple-A Nashville. When center fielder Carlos Gomez returns to action (he was sidelined Monday by nagging elbow, hand and shoulder soreness), Logan Schafer figures to be the Brewers’ regular left fielder.

When Schafer is needed in center field or right, then right-handed hitting Davis or left-handed hitting Caleb Gindl could man left field.

“As far as myself, the coaching staff, players, we’re certainly disappointed in the news that we received today,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “The suspension obviously affects us the rest of the year for what we do and where we’re trying to go. As far as the investigation and the suspension, I know everybody thinks that we know what was going on — I really I knew nothing. I found out today, when I got to the ballpark, that he was going to be suspended today.”

Braun pulled several longtime teammates aside for private discussions before addressing the full team for 5-10 minutes at about 3 p.m. CT. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of Braun’s most outspoken allies over the past year and a half, said Braun’s comments were similar to the statement he released via Major League Baseball, in which Braun acknowledged “mistakes” but never explicitly admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks characterized the mood during the meeting as “somber” and said Braun appeared embarrassed. Lucroy said Braun was “depressed,” and, like reliever John Axford was eager to get more facts about what specific infractions Braun was being suspended for.

“Coming into the ballpark and hearing this today, I was shocked,” Weeks said. “I’m at a loss for words right now, to tell you the truth.”

Lucroy was asked whether he and other teammates felt deceived, given Braun’s long insistence about his innocence.

“Yeah, sure, I felt that way,” Lucroy said. “He came up to me before the meeting and told me about it and he said, ‘I’m sorry. I screwed up.” I said, ‘OK,” and I forgave him. That’s tough; when people make a mistake it’s tough to forgive them, but I think it’s a bigger person who will forgive them than who will sit there and wear him out, hold a grudge against him.”

Right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who dealt with his own off-the-field controversy in April when he was arrested and cited for drunk driving, said he still believed Braun has never taken PEDs.

“That’s only my opinion,” Gallardo said. “Other guys may have different opinions. … I know the kind of guy he is. We were roommates in the Minor Leagues. It’s tough for all of us, but we know what kind of guy he is.”

Lucroy said he believed the same when he reported for work on Monday.

And when Lucroy left for the night?

“You know what? I still forgive him, man,” Lucroy said. “He made a mistake. Lots of people make mistakes. I’m not sitting here acting like I’m perfect; I’m not. Nobody in here — none of y’all are perfect. He made a mistake, I forgive him, now let’s move on.”

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D-backs, others react to Braun news

There were strong sentiments around baseball on Monday about Ryan Braun’s suspension but particularly out of Phoenix, from members of the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks, the team ousted from that year’s postseason by Ryan Braun and the Brewers. Remember that this whole saga began after Game 1 of that series, when Braun was ordered to provide a urine sample for testing. Braun went 9-for-18 in that series with five extra-base hits.

Thanks to  Steve Gilbert and some of my other colleagues, here’s what people are saying:

Arizona manager Kirk Gibson: 

“What’s happened in the past and how it might have affected us, we’ll never really know. We’re in a pennant race this year and Ryan Braun has to live with Ryan Braun. We take care of ourselves and try to do the right thing, do it the right way and within good ethical codes.

“I’ve got a sour taste because we lost. For me to sit here and say we lost because of Ryan Braun, as far as I know we don’t know that he did do it in that series based upon what was announced today.”

On PED users in general…
“I don’t think they should be in the All-Star Game, I don’t think they should be in the Hall of Fame for sure. Penalties should be more severe. It should be much more of a deterrent. Monetarily things should be more severe, because I think you have to ask why they do it. They would be the best people to answer that question. I think major League Baseball has made great progress.”

Arizona infielder Willie Bloomquist:

“I got a chance to play with Ryan on the USA team and he’s a good dude, a really good guy. But having said that, it’s disappointing. We as players have done the best job we can to clean up the game and rid it of all this sort of thing. Everyone knows the consequences and penalties for it and yet there’s some people that seem like they can sneak by the system without getting caught and what it does is it cheats everybody else. It cheats the game, it cheats the fans it cheats the players they’re playing against.”

On the 2011 playoffs…
“I don’t know what the details of it are, but if you go back to the playoff series that we had with them who knows how that series turns out if we’re playing all on the same level playing field. Does it piss me off? Yeah. We busted our butt that series and left everything out on the field and came up just a little bit short so who knows what might have happened. Maybe there’s a different outcome, maybe there’s not, but it’s frustrating to know that maybe you were cheated on the other side of it a little bit. … Not saying the outcome would have been different, but it leaves you wondering and from a competitor’s standpoint it pisses you off.”

On PED users in general…
“Guys are getting frustrated with, ‘Why are you still thinking you can cheat the system and get away with it?’ Everybody else is playing on the same field and there are guys out there that still think that they can get away with things. From that point it’s very frustrating.”

Does admitting it help?
“Maybe it will help him sleep at night a little better.”

D-backs reliever David Hernandez:

“It’s pointless [thinking back to the ’11 postseason]. Who I really feel bad for is the guy’s [the sample collector] whose integrity got questioned.”

D-backs reliever Brad Ziegler:

“It’s frustrating that guys are still trying to beat the system, but it’s also frustrating that he’s essentially accepting responsibility for it now which means that everything he said back at the beginning of 2012 was a lie. You never want to see that out of anybody let alone a fellow ballplayer. It’s frustrating that guys are still trying to beat the system, but the lying and the denials are more the issue for me just from a human being’s perspective.”

On 2011 playoffs…
“Obviously it affected the series because that’s right when the positive test occurred, that’s right when it was highest in his system and he torched us that series, there’s no question about it. We still had opportunities and we can’t put it all on that. it probably definitely effected it, but looking back on it we walked from that series knowing that we should have won it long before we ever heard he had tested positive.

“At least he didn’t get away with it now. There’s nothing they could have done at that time to go back and replay those games or change the outcome.

“That’s the whole point of this drug testing policy is to try and clean the game up. Get guys who are trying to cheat the system make sure they’re punished for it. the numbers obviously are way down from what they were even four or five years ago, but at the same time it’s obviously still not enough deterrent there and guys are still trying to beat the system and we’ll have to see what else comes out in this investigation because it could really shake baseball up a little bit.”

Cubs manager [and former Brewers coach and manager] Dale Sveum:

“It’s unfortunate for baseball, it’s unfortnate for the Brewers organization. I’m just glad it’s kind of finally over. I don’t think he has to deal with it. Now he’s come out and obviously admitted it to the public and apologized. I think it’s the best thing to happen to Braun and the organization. He’ll be able to play Opening Day next year and everything is behind him as well as the organization and the players he let down and [Brewers principal owner Mark] Attanasio and [general manager] Doug Melvin and the fans who have supported him for six years in the organization. At least now it’s finished, it’s over and they can move on.”

Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano:

“I think sometimes people don’t realize how good they are. They want to go try something else. I just focus and try to do my job and not pay attention to what happens outside of baseball.”

Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson:

This is the first domino to fall and obviously there’s a big cloud with the Biogenesis thing over the game right now, and hopefully we can get past this and move on as soon as possible. Hopefully whatever actions are going to happen happen swiftly, that way we don’t have to complain about it next year.

“[Braun] has got a whole team of advisors I’m sure, based on his financial standing and his standing in the game as a superstar player. It’s a big downer to have a guy that’s an MVP have this kind of tag follow him, because you obviously want to root for guys to do well. But this is the punishment that’s necessary for the crime, I guess.”

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Brewers’ Melvin: ‘Happy this is over’

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin just spoke to the media:

“From the ballclub’s standpoint, I know a decision has finally been made in regards to Ryan,” Melvin said. “As the general manager of the ballclub, we’re happy that decision has come to and end and we support the Commissioner’s drug program. The Commissioner’s Office, Ryan, the Union have all got together and finally put an end to this so we as a ballclub can move forward and concentrate on the 25 players on the field and move forward and try to win as many games as we can.

“I don’t have a lot of answers to some of the questions you’re going to have, so I hope you respect that. But as the general manager, I’m somewhat happy that this is over with so we can move forward.”

Melvin said he spoke with Braun late Monday afternoon and learned for the first time of the suspension. Braun has been removed from the Brewers’ 40-man roster, and will be replaced on the 25-man, active roster for Tuesday’s game against the Padres.

Melvin also said Braun addressed his teammates in the clubhouse.

“Our focus will be on the field starting with tonight’s game,” Melvin said.

Will he stand behind Braun through the remainder of a contract that runs through at least 2020?

“The decision has been made — he’s suspended without pay,” Melvin said. “He’s a Milwaukee Brewer. He’s wearing a uniform next year, and his focus is to get ready for next year.”

Is Melvin disappointed?

“Yeah, I’m disappointed,” he said. “Obviously, I’m disappointed. He’s a very important player to our organization and to the ballclub and to our performance on the field.”

What was the tone of his conversation with Braun?

“That was between Ryan and I,” Melvin said.

Was Braun apologetic?

“I think that conversation was between Ryan and I,” Melvin said.

Was this the best case scenario in terms of wiping the slate clean and starting over in 2014?

“Yeah, I think it’s very important. We can move forward starting tonight,” Melvin said. “We’ll have someone else here tomorrow and we’ll try to win as many games as we can. It’s been a disappointing year for Ryan with his injuries, but with this behind us now, I think it gives us a much better focus for the offseason and what we can do.”

What reaction does Melvin expect from the Brewers’ fan base?

“I guess we’ll find that out when you guys are all done doing your jobs,” he said.

Does he think Braun should answer questions in a more detailed fashion?

“I think that’s Ryan’s decision,” Melvin said.

On the challenge the Biogenesis saga has presented the Brewers: “Every year is challenging, but this has always been a cloud over the ballclub, not knowing what’s going to happen. There was a lot of speculation out there; you read about it, you hear about it. I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I only knew what I read in the paper the next day. So you move forward and you play each day as it comes. I am glad, and I think as an organization we are happy that Ryan, the union and the Commissioners Office have all put their heads together and made a wise decision for baseball and for us, the organization.”

Melvin has always been supportive of Braun — did he report for work on Monday morning believing in his heart that Braun never took a PED?

“I’m not going to answer that question,” Melvin said.

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Braun suspended, admits violations

Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been suspended for the remainder of 2013 and came clean Friday about violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, an outcome of the league’s extensive investigation into a Miami wellness clinic.

“As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect,” Braun said in a statement released by MLB. “I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. This situation has taken a toll on me and my entire family, and it is has been a distraction to my teammates and the Brewers organization. I am very grateful for the support I have received from players, ownership and the fans in Milwaukee and around the country.

“Finally, I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed — all of the baseball fans especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates. I am glad to have this matter behind me once and for all, and I cannot wait to get back to the game I love.”

MLB Executive Vice President Rob Manfred also issued a statement:

“We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions. We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field.”

MLB’s announcement did not specify Braun’s violations. His suspension is effectively immediately, and covers the Brewers’ remaining 65 regular season games and any potential postseason games.

Obviously, much more to come on Brewers.com.

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Owings the Crew’s next Kieschnick?

Micah Owings is a pitcher turned hitter whom the Brewers hope turns into something in the middle.

“He is the reincarnation of Brooks Kieschnick,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

Kieschnick found both success and a cult following with the Brewers as a power-hitting relief pitcher in 2003-04, posting a 4.59 ERA alongside eight home runs. Often, he would pitch the top of an inning and then bat, saving then-manager Ned Yost a bench player.

Owings, 30, signed a Minor League contract with the Brewers after opting out of his Triple-A deal with the Nationals, for whom he had been working exclusively as a hitter. He was expected to make his first appearance as a pitcher since 2011 on Friday night at rookie-level Arizona, but was pushed to Monday because of what Ash termed some minor arm soreness.

When he has built sufficient arm strength, Owings will be assigned to Double-A Huntsville, Ash said.

“The appeal with us is we wanted him to do both [pitching and hitting],” Ash said.

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Ramirez ready by Monday? TBD

Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez wants to get his latest return from the disabled list right. If that means waiting beyond Monday, the first day he’s eligible to return from a left knee injury, then he will wait.

Ramirez’s caution makes sense for his current team on two fronts. One, the Brewers would benefit from having him healthy and productive in the lineup, with three-hole hitter Ryan Braun still dealing with discomfort in his right hand and five-hole hitter Corey Hart out for the season. Two, the team could shop Ramirez much more proactively on the trade market if he is producing at his customarily consistent level.

“I really have to make sure that I’m healthy enough to play when I come back,” said Ramirez, who spent the All-Star break at home in the Dominican Republic. “I won’t try to be a hero. I won’t go out there if I’m not healthy enough, because I won’t help the team, I won’t help myself by doing that. If I feel like I won’t be ready [on Monday], I won’t be back.”

Ramirez, whose three-year contract runs through 2014, says he does not concern himself with trade rumors.

“I’ve been around for a while, and I will be good trying to block out the things that I cannot control,” he said. “That’s one of those things I cannot control. The only thing I can control is my play on the field. Nothing would surprise me. I’m ready for anything.”

One national baseball writer surmised Friday that the Yankees and Red Sox would each send a scout to file reports on Ramirez after he returns from the DL. If both clubs prove interested in the 35-year-old right-handed slugger, it could turn into a situation similar to last July, when Brewers GM Doug Melvin pitted the division-rival Angels and Rangers against each other for right-hander Zack Greinke.

Greinke was performing at a much higher level at the time than Ramirez has in 2013. Dogged all season by a knee he first sprained during Spring Training, he has been limited to five home runs, 11 doubles, 26 RBIs and 54 games.

After a successful round of batting practice in the indoor cages on Friday afternoon, Ramirez could not commit to a Monday return. That was OK with manager Ron Roenicke.

“I talked to him today and I’m not sure if he’ll be ready Monday,” Roenicke said. “He told me he’s going to be smart this time. He’s not just going to go out there and play on it regardless. … We were careful with him, but he wants to play. He doesn’t like to sit out. He knows how much we need him out there. As hard as it was for him to not perform well, you certainly respect a player who will go out there when he’s not 100 percent, knowing that he can help a team win even though he’s got some pain.”

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Braun addresses latest Biogenesis report

Here’s what Ryan Braun had to say tonight about Biogenesis:

“In regards to that whole crazy situation, the truth still hasn’t changed,” Braun said. “I’m still going to continue to respect the process and not discuss anything in the media. Beyond that, the vast majority of stories that have come out are inaccurate. But aside from that I’m not going to say anything else tonight.”

Pressed on that, Braun would not say whether Tuesday’s story was inaccurate. ESPN reported that he met with Major League Baseball investigators on June 29 and did not answer their questions about the South Florida firm accused of supplying some players with banned substances.

“Just the vast majority of stories that have come out are definitely inaccurate,” Braun said.

He said he was informed of ESPN’s latest report right before the game, Braun’s first off a month-long stint on the disabled list for a right-hand injury. He hit the first live pitch he’d seen in exactly one month for a first-inning single and finished 1-for-3 before exiting after the sixth, part of the Brewers’ plan to ease him back into action.

Was Biogenesis a distraction on Tuesday?

“I think I’m numb to the emotions of the whole thing,” Braun said. “I’ve dealt with it for so long, so I think I do a pretty good job of not being distracted by it.”

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Braun not 100 percent, but ‘excited’

Here’s what Ryan Braun had to say about escaping the disabled list today:

“It’s exciting more than it is a relief,” Braun said. “Being on the DL is not something I enjoyed. It definitely made me appreciate the last six years, having never spent time on the DL, because it’s just a lot of long and boring days. I’m excited to be back, excited to be able to compete again and be able to contribute, hopefully, to some better baseball.”

How close is he to 100 percent?

“It’s not close to 100 percent, but we don’t expect it to be close to 100 percent all year,” Braun said. “So as long as it’s good enough, I am thrilled about that.”

Does he worry about doing further damage to his hand by playing with pain?

“I don’t think it would do any good to have a negative mindset like that,” Braun said. “I’m optimistic that we’re in a good place. It’s felt good the last few days, and that’s what I anticipate moving forward.”

Braun’s return was accelerated dramatically beginning Tuesday at Nationals Park, where he swung a bat for the first time in a week and felt much less pain in his hand. He took more dry swings each of the subsequent two days, then took full batting practice for the first time on Saturday at Miller Park.

All of those sessions went well, giving Braun and the Brewers hope that he would beat an earlier timetable that had him sidelined through the All-Star break.

“So far, so good,” said Braun.

The only bad news was that the corresponding portion of the move cost the Brewers their cleanup hitter, Aramis Ramirez, whose production has sagged because of his balky knee.

“It’s been a challenging year for all of us, obviously, health-wise,” Braun said. “But I’m just excited to go back out there and I’m looking forward to competing again. Ultimately, whoever is out there is expected to have success and be able to contribute to winning. Hopefully we start winning some more games.”

Braun said he would offer input, but will defer to Roenicke and the Brewers’ athletic training staff on his workload in the coming days.

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Ramirez to DL, Braun reinstated

The Brewers made a big roster move Monday, sending Aramis Ramirez to the 15-day disabled list and reinstating Ryan Braun from his month-long DL stint.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke originally said the team would wait to make the move until after Braun’s batting practice session prior to Monday’s game against the Reds, but the team decided to make it official before BP began.

Braun was not in Monday’s starting lineup, but Roenicke said he would be available to pinch hit and he may play Tuesday against the Reds.

“If he’s OK to go, I’ll use him,” Roenicke said. “If he’s able to go tonight, he says use him. I probably won’t put him out there to play, but pinch hit.”

Braun has been on the DL with an inflamed nerve in his right hand since mid-June.

The Brewers were able to backdate Ramirez to Sunday so the third baseman can rest a left knee injury through the All-Star break and return on July 22, missing only Milwaukee’s three-game set with the Marlins after the All-Star festivities.

Roenicke said Ramirez is developing some patellar tendonitis in his left knee.

“That’s starting to bark on him,” Roenicke said. “We were going to go the days in Arizona and probably not play him [in the team’s last series heading into the All-Star break]. We just thought this was a better way to do it.”

Ramirez has played at less than 100 percent nearly the entire season, which has impacted his power numbers and presence in the middle of Milwaukee’s order. He already had a stint on the DL this season, missing 23 games, and Roenicke has been cautious with his playing time since returning in early May.

By Kevin Massoth

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