Braun: ‘Counterproductive’ to play right now
Here’s a transcript of what Ryan Braun had to say about his absence from the Brewers’ lineup today because of a mixture of pain and numbness in his right thumb:
“It just is what it is,” he said. “I deal with it the best I can. There will probably be some ups and downs, and hopefully, it gets better.”
Did it get worse yesterday?
“I mean, not really. It’s similar,” Braun said.
Of his poor at-bats in the Brewers’ win over the Red Sox: “The challenging thing is when I can’t take a normal swing. I think the first series, I did, I took a lot of good swings and lined out quite a few times, had some good at-bats. Yesterday, that wasn’t the case. It’s frustrating. I’ve dealt with it a long time. Like I said, I’m optimistic we’ll figure something out to make it better, but when it gets to a point I can’t come close to taking a normal swing, it’s counterproductive to the team and to me to continue to play.”
Is the trouble the pain? That he can’t grip the bat? Can’t feel it?
“All of the above,” Braun said. “The analogy is like, if you touch a hot stove, no matter how badly you want to keep your hand there, the natural reaction will be to take your hand off of it. That’s kind of what happens every time I make contact when it gets bad. No matter what I want to do or try to do, I can’t keep two hands on the bat. I’ve tried lots of different things, lots of different padding. Hopefully, we’ll figure something out, some type of treatment, something that eventually helps.”
Does he hope to play Sunday?
“I’m optimistic,” Braun said. “For the most part, it was there in Spring Training [when Braun hit three homers and batted better than .400]. It helped that I didn’t take BP [batting practice] much in Spring Training. I didn’t hit a whole lot, and that helped a little bit. I won’t hit today. I won’t do anything today.”
So why didn’t Braun have surgery last year during his suspension?
“The only two surgeries we knew of last year, neither of them were appealing,” he said. “Look, I rely on the advice of people who are much more knowledgeable on this stuff that I am. The only two surgeries they described last year, one is I would never feel anything in my thumb again, because they would completely remove the nerve. That doesn’t make sense just long-term, living life. The other one, there would be nerve endings, because they would remove the nerve but the nerve endings would still be there, which could be really painful, and [Dr. Don Sheridan, the specialist who examined Braun several times] said he didn’t think that would be a great option, either. Then, when we saw him in the spring, there is a third option that he thinks could potentially work, but it’s not something that’s been done very often. Without getting into too many details, because I’m not an expert and I don’t want to say something that’s inaccurate, I know it hasn’t been done a lot but it’s something that he thought might work.”
If he did a surgery, would be have to miss the season?
“I’m not even thinking about doing it, so I don’t know,” he said. “I would imagine if I did it, it wouldn’t be a two-week fix, because I would have done it in Spring Training, to be honest with you. I have no idea. And again, because it’s probably not something they know much about, they wouldn’t be able to put a specific timetable on it and say.”
He didn’t hit much in the offseason.
“I didn’t swing a bat for five months. Nothing. Zero,” Braun said. “But I feel it shaking hands, writing. So it’s not just swinging. Anything that I use that area for, basically. But there’s times it’s better than others. I was encouraged in Spring Training because there were times I definitely thought it was improving. It might be something that just ebbs and flows and is good at times and not so good at others, and [he has to] just make the best of it and do the best I can.”
He admitted it’s not easy to maintain his optimistic facade.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” Braun said. “It’s frustrating. But I don’t think it’s overly surprising, because it never went away in the offseason. It got better, but it never went away, so I had an idea it would be something I would deal with off and on. When I first experienced it last year and we started to get some feedback and the opinion of experts on this, I understood that it was kind of a long-term thing, that there probably wasn’t going to be a situation where it completely recovered, at least not quickly. So I don’t think I’m shocked by it, but it’s not fun.”
Other players deal with nagging pain. Might this just be a new normal?
“I don’t know. I hope not,” Braun said. “In spring, it was the best Spring Training I’ve had. The sample size [was small], and I think I’ve told you guys, I don’t put much value in results of Spring Training, but in the 40-plus plate appearances, however many I had, it was probably the best I’ve done. So I was encouraged I would find a way to deal with it, and hopefully I will.”
He dealt with the same pain in his hand last season, when Braun’s power was drained by the issue beginning in May. He said the problem began not when he was jammed by a pitch, but when he hit a ball off the end of the bat. Before that, he contends he was off to a great start to the season.
The cynics will say my numbers were down. My numbers weren’t down. My numbers were up,” Braun said. “I was on pace to have my best season. I think at the end of 25-30 games, I was hitting .320, had eight homers and was on pace to probably have my best year. I dealt with it for 25 games, for ever how many games I played after that.
On that walk back to the dugout when he was first hurt, “My thumb was numb. The whole thumb was numb. But I didn’t know. There’s always little things within the hand. You get jammed, you hit a ball off the end of the bat, your hand hurts. You just kind of assume it’ll go away after a couple of days. That’s what I was hoping would occur. It didn’t. And still hasn’t.”
He compared it to getting hit on the funny bone.
“That’s exactly what it feels like,” Braun said. “If you hit the funny bone, and the funny bone never got better for eight months. Not even minimally better. … In light of everything I’m dealing with, it makes it a little bit more frustrating for me than it would otherwise. I just deal with it the best I can. That’s all I can do.”
It’s not difficult to see that Braun is alluding to his comeback from last season’s suspension. He vowed when he reported to Spring Training that he would be better than ever in 2014, and now the hand issue represents a major impediment to that.
“I’m not oblivious to the circumstances that are surrounding me,” Braun said. “Trust me. I want more than anything to go out and have my best season.”
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