Braun on thumb surgery: ‘It worked’
Ryan Braun won’t know for sure until February or March, after he begins the grind of another baseball season and fends off a few 95 mph inside fastballs. But so far, it appears his October thumb surgery was a success.
“It definitely worked,” Braun said Wednesday, when the Brewers right fielder took part in a Thanksgiving food drive at Miller Park. “It made a huge difference.”
Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a troublesome nerve that forced Braun to alter his mechanics throughout 2014, contributing to the least productive season of his career.
Ten days later, Braun swung a bat for the first time and was relieved to find the pain had disappeared.
“Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years,” he said. “I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing — you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited.”
His optimism came with a dose of caution.
“I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into Spring Training and see how it responds,” Braun said. “But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time.”
Braun said he had 100 percent medical clearance for all offseason activities, but has been taking a break from baseball since his initial round of hitting following surgery. He will resume his regular offseason routine in late December.
“I’m excited,” Braun said, “but at the same time, I went into last year and felt really good in Spring Training. For the first four of five weeks, it felt great, I played great, and then kind of re-injured it. But last year we also just rested it. We didn’t do a procedure. So I’m optimistic and excited. I feel like I have to be somewhat cautiously optimistic until we start playing a little bit. …
“I don’t think there’s enough information out there on the procedure to have any specific knowledge of how it’s going to respond or how long it will work or anything like that. We’re just trying to figure it out as we go.”
Considering the swift and dramatic improvement, Does Braun wish he had done something in-season?
“Hindsight is always 20/20,” Braun said. “It’s easy to say that now. At the time, I definitely wanted to do it, but I understood why we decided not to. I’m just thankful we were able to do it after the season, and it feels a lot better now.”
A better Braun would mean a better Brewers offense compared to the group that slumped to the finish of 2014. After ranking second to the Rockies in most offensive categories before the All-Star break, only the Braves and Reds scored fewer runs than the Brewers in the second half.
Braun knows he played a significant role in the slump.
“We should be significantly better,” he said. “I said it last year a few times, I really believe if I was anywhere near healthy, the season ends up differently. Hopefully, this thing continues to feel good like it does right now, and I can get back to being one of the best players in the league.”
Braun also discussed other matters:
— On the trade for first baseman Adam Lind amid an otherwise quiet Brewers winter to this point:
“It’s early in the offseason,” Braun said. “Sometimes it takes time for any big moves to happen or occur, but I think getting Adam Lind is huge for us. Adding a left-handed bat to the middle of our lineup should be something that really benefits us. It’s probably been one of our bigger issues over the last couple of years is that we’ve been a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup, and our division has really good right-handed pitchers.”
— On the Brewers’ second half collapse sinking in:
“I think it’s like that every year, there’s years that are far more enjoyable to digest than what happened in this year,” he said. “For all of us, it was a disappointing finish, so I think you take some time to reflect and try to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and how we can avoid having it happen again.”
— On the addition of hitting coach Darnell Coles:
“It’s great, because a lot of us are familiar with him, especially a lot of the young guys,” braun said. “He has a relationship with a lot of the younger guys. It’s a really difficult and challenging position. If you’re a hitting coach, you’re basically a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so having a relationship with a lot of the guys will be really beneficial for him or for us.”
— On fatherhood:
“The whole experience is indescribably beautiful,” Braun said. “So much fun. Every day is a unique adventure. A couple of days ago, she figured out how to stick her tongue out. It’s her new trick, so every time she does it she gets a reaction out of us. It’s so much fun.”
He was outside Miller Park on a 25 degree day accepting donations at a Thanksgiving food drive staged by the Hunger Task Force and Brewers Community Foundation. Braun attended the same event on a much colder day last year, making his first public comments since being suspended by Major League Baseball for the final 65 games of the 2013 season.
“It’s a rewarding feeling for all of us volunteers who are out here,” Braun said. “Hunger Task Force does an incredible job and Brewers Community Foundation does a great job being involved. It’s just a really special time of the year to have an opportunity to give back.”
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