Brewers pitching prospect Johnny Hellweg admits he was worn down as he lost weight in the second half of last season, and spent the winter bulking up to avoid the same fate in 2014.
The 6-foot-9, hard-throwing Hellweg, acquired with shortstop Jean Segura and fellow right-hander Ariel Pena in the July 2012 trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels, finished last season at 208 lbs. but reported for duty this week at 245.
“Just worked out hard, changed my diet, ate right,” said Hellweg, 25. “I cut out a lot of bad stuff in my diet. Mostly protein and carbs, no gluten. It helped. It was a lot of work, actually. In the end I was sick of eating so much this offseason. It’s a grind.”
“I feel great,” he said. “Spring Training is always a fresh start. It’s another year to prove yourself.”
Hellweg was the Brewers Minor League pitcher of the year and Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s pitcher of the year last season after going 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 23 starts. He led PCL starters with a .228 opponents’ batting average, and enjoyed one 10-start stretch from mid-May through the end of July in which he was 9-0 with a 1.16 ERA.
It earned a promotion to the Majors, where Hellweg struggled badly with command and went 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance. He walked 26 batters and struck out only nine in 30 2/3 innings.
Hellweg did not blame those struggles on his falling weight, but wanted to report for his second full season in the Brewers organization a bit stronger.
“I lost a lot of weight in July and August, so I just wanted to put it back on to make sure that if I was going to lose it again, I was going to be OK weight-wise,” he said. “I think I was just underweight to begin with. It’s something I have to work on.”
Hellweg is not expected to break camp with the Major League team, though that could change with injuries.
Club officials will be looking for him to show better command.
“It’s time on the mound,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s confidence and knowing that when you’re behind in counts you can throw a ball over the plate and still get by with it. The guys that throw 90 who are pretty straight, it’s hard to just say, ‘I’m going to throw this ball right down the middle because I’m behind in the count.’ When you throw 95, 96 and you have movement, you should be able to go at a guy any time you want to.”
Over time, Roenicke is confident Hellweg will develop that confidence.
“If you go over his Minor League career, this isn’t a guy who was a starter every year,” Roenicke said. “He doesn’t have a lot of total starts in the Minor Leagues, so I think it’s going to take a little time.”
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Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was ready to welcome Ryan Braun to Spring Training on Thursday, and is just as eager as Braun to move beyond Biogenesis and on to baseball.
“We need him on this club, and he’s paid the penalty that Major League Baseball has put in place, and it’s over with,” Roenicke said Thursday morning, just before Braun arrived in camp. “I think we all make mistakes, and we’re pretty forgiving people. I think everything will be fine. I think [teammates] will welcome him back really well.”
Roenicke reiterated that he has heard everything he needs to hear from Braun, who admitted last summer in the wake of his suspension that he took a banned substance to speed his recovery from an injury in 2011. Since then, Braun has apologized to his teammates in private and to fans in public, holding two press conferences during the offseason.
On Thursday, he was met by some of the national media for the first time.
Roenicke is weary of the saga. He figures Brewers players are, too.
“Yeah, they’re tired of it,” Roenicke said. “We want to move forward. We’re excited about this season. I think we’ve got a very good club and we’re excited to move on and to worry about how Ryan and everyone else in that room can help us win this year.”
From a production standpoint, Roenicke expects the same Braun who produced a National League Rookie of the Year season in 2007, and drove in 100 runs in each of the three subsequent seasons that followed before Braun was ever connected to PEDs. Roenicke indicated he believes Braun only took banned substances in 2011, when he first ran afoul of MLB’s drug program.
“So I expect him to be the same player, yes,” Roenicke said. “He’s in great shape. He’s in a good frame of mind. He knows this stuff is behind him, and I expect him to come out and be the kind of guy that he’s always been.”
That guy will be playing a new position.
Khris Davis, a slugger who turned 26 over the winter, did enough last season in Braun’s absence (11 home runs, .596 slugging percentage in 136 at-bats) to convince Brewers officials that he deserves a more prominent role in 2014. Davis does not possess a string arm, so Braun is moving to right field. In the long term, the Brewers believe it is generally easier to find left fielders. In the short term, it opens opportunity for Davis.
“That’s never an easy decision,” Roenicke said. “I actually thought about it my forst year here [in 2011]. Usually, when you see that good of a defensive outfielder, an a guy who can throw, you usually think of him as a right fielder. … It won’t be that easy of a transition, even though he’s a very good left fielder. It’s different when that ball turns the other way.”
The Brewers will put Braun through more defensive drills to get him up to speed, Roenicke said, and as usual will let Braun have a say in his schedule once Cactus League games begin.
At Miller Park, Braun will face some challenges in right field. In addition to the 90-degree caroms sometimes produced by grounders down the line, Miller Park features a party area in right field that juts onto what used to be the warning track. The outfield wall takes several unusual turns because of that.
“He’ll get used to it,” Roenicke said. “You’ve got to be able to turn your head off the ball and run and see exactly where that cut-out is. The throwing part won’t be an issue because he throws well and is accurate. It’s a lot easier when you have a straight wall and it’s curved nice for you and it’s padded an all that. Maybe he plays a little deeper at the beginning to help that out. I know [Norichika] Aoki played deeper.”
The Brewers will also work to find ways to keep Braun healthy. Before the suspension last year, he was severely diminished by neck and thumb issues that sapped Braun’s power. The thumb is a long-term concern, Roenicke indicated.
“The trainers are working to pad-up either the gloves he puts on or the bat itself in trying to get a little pressure off that,” Roenicke said. “I know he doesn’t like that, because he really likes to feel the bat on his fingers, and you lose a little bit of feeling [when you pad the bat]. Hopefully they come up with something that will help that and we won’t fight with that all year.”
At some point, Roenicke hopes, things will be back to normal for Braun.
“I’m hoping he gets off to a great start, and the better he does, the less he’s going to hear about things,” Roenicke said. “Hopefully he’ll have a great year.”
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Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez underwent surgery in December to remove a non-cancerous polyp from his colon and will not be game-ready when Cactus League play begins late next week, club officials said. Ramirez is expected to arrive in camp on time ahead of Saturday’s first full-squad workout.
“My understanding from [head athletic trainer] Dan Wright, who followed this closely, is that there were no [long-term] issues to be concerned about or alarmed with,” said Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash. “He’s just behind, and what’s the rush? If he’s a week to 10 days behind [it is not a problem].
“Part of the problem in giving you updated information is we haven’t seen him. This is all word of mouth. Until we see him — I expect him to be here for the physical on the weekend — then we’ll know more. .. But our understanding is this will be a question of days. There are no problems.”
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spoke to Ramirez on Tuesday and was told Ramirez has been doing some hitting lately in the Dominican Republic. The 35-year-old is entering the final season of his contract and coming off a 2013 marred by a nagging left knee injury.
Ash also provided an update on reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who has been delayed because he signed so late in the offseason. Rodriguez has an appointment at the U.S. consulate in Caracas, Venezuela on Feb. 26 to acquire a work visa, Ash said, and the Brewers hope to see him in camp several days later. It is unclear whether the recent violence in the Venezuelan capital will impact Rodriguez’s plan.
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Why didn’t Matt Garza jump at that four-year, $52 million offer from the Los Angeles Angels in December?
Bad timing, he said Monday in Milwaukee Brewers camp.
“They offered, but it was more of a weird situation,” said Garza, who wound up getting $50 million in guaranteed money from Milwaukee. “I was on vacation with my wife and I didn’t want to be disturbed, and it was like, ‘Here it is, we’ll pull it in a certain amount of hours.’ I didn’t have a chance to respond, so I just said, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.’”
He added: “It wasn’t anything big. It was an offer and I said, ‘I’m on vacation. I’m not thinking about baseball, Dude. Me and my wife are enjoying ourselves.’”
Garza and wife Serina were in Turks and Caicos at the time, on an anniversary trip. The Angels subsequently pulled the offer, and it would be about six weeks before Garza signed with the Brewers.
“I had no worries,” he said. “God’s going to make things work out either way. It is what it is. I guess you didn’t want me that bad, I take it. I found a team that wants me and makes me feel at home. I was looking for a great fit and I believe I found it.”
He found it with a Brewers team willing to spend big — Garza’s contract is the largest for a free agent in club history — to bolster a starting rotation projected to include Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Garza’s agent, Nez Balelo, has a good relationship with Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin from previous deals for players like Ryan Braun and Norichika Aoki, and worked out an agreement that includes deferred money, $1 million in incentives available in each of the four guaranteed seasons, plus a complex fifth year option that can vest if Garza stays healthy.
During negotiations, Attanasio met with Garza in person.
“A really great guy,” Garza said. “Down to earth. It was awesome just chatting it up with him. I was looking for a great fit — someplace who wanted me. It wasn’t just, ‘We want you to pawn you off for something else.’ That’s what really kind of stuck with me. Just saying,’ Here, we want you this bad. We’ll give you this.’ And I was like, ‘Cool.’ That’s what I was looking for.”
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Taiwanese left-hander Wei-Chung Wang knows his current undertaking will not be easy. It is not every day that a pitcher makes the leap from the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to the Major Leagues.
“I know a lot of people spend [so much] time to make a team. It’s hard. I understand how hard it is,” he said Saturday through translator Jay Hsu. “The feeling is like swimming from Taiwan to here, swimming in the ocean.”
Wang also knows he is uniquely positioned to give it a shot. The Brewers selected the 21-year-old in December’s Rule 5 Draft from the Pirates, and will have to keep him in the big leagues all season or offer him back to Pittsburgh. Brewers scouts love Wang’s poise and his change-up, so they spent $50,000 and a 40-man roster spot for the right to evaluate him in Spring Training for a spot in the bullpen.
“I am still surprised,” Wang said. “It’s like a lottery.”
Does he think he can win?
“I can do it,” Wang said.
At first, he believed he’d been traded. A friend who pitches in the Baltimore system called Wang at about midnight in Taiwan after the Brewers had called his name at the Rule 5 Draft in Orlando. Eventually, a “shocked” Wang was filled-in on the details of the draft, which offers opportunity to players left unprotected on their teams’ 40-man rosters.
Wang originally agreed to a lucrative international deal with the Pirates in 2011, but the contract was voided after a physical exam revealed a torn ligament in his pitching elbow that required Tommy John surgery. Wang did not pitch at all in 2012, then went 1-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 12 games, 11 starts, in 2013 for the rookie Gulf Coast League Pirates. The Brewers loved the fact he throws strikes — 42 strikeouts versus four walks in 47 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .209 batting average. His fastball mostly sat at 91-93 mph, Brewers pro scouting director Zach Minasian said in December, touching 95 mph, with a change-up that is Wang’s best pitch and a curveball that is developing but projectable. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot.
“The first couple of days [after the transaction], I could not sleep very well,” Wang said.
He is feeling more comfortable now, in his fourth week of workouts at Maryvale Baseball Park. Wang has already thrown at least one bullpen session under pitching coach Rick Kranitz’s watch, and expects to throw again Monday during the Brewers’ first official workout.
As a bonus, Wang’s older brother, Yao-Lin, pitches in the Cubs system and will soon be in Arizona for Spring Training.
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Brewers special assistant Dick Groch spoke like a proud father Wednesday about Yankees star Derek Jeter, who announced he would retire at the end of this season. Groch was the Yankees scout who signed Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Mich. in 1992.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Groch said.
Because of Groch’s own demanding summer schedule, and the usual hub-bub that surrounds Jeter on the days they happen to be at the same ballpark, the men have mostly communicated via email in recent years. Groch also scouted and signed Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, so four or five times per year, Groch will write a message to Close that gets passed along to Jeter.
“Last week I sent Casey an email,” Groch said. “And I said, ‘Case, best to The Captain. Tell him to take it easy through Spring Training. Be sure that he’s ready to play.’ And before the end, I said, ‘If he goes out, Case, be sure that he doesn’t go out 9-1-1. I don’t want to see him dragged off the field. Be sure he goes off as a New York Yankee player, and that he gets the same thing that [Mariano Rivera] did. And make sure that last year, that he plays shortstop. Don’t let him move to third base or to left field. He should go out in a position that brought the New York Yankees a special player.’”
On Friday, Groch learned that his premonition was coming true when a Toronto radio station called for reaction to Jeter’s announcement.
“People tell me, ‘You signed a good player,’” Groch said. “But, no — and I know I sound a little bit vain — I signed a franchise. This is a marquee player, and there are very few. Babe Ruth was a marquee player. All the money that Babe Ruth made for the Yankees more than paid his salary. And now people say Derek Jeter is overpaid, but he was a marquee player and the amount of money he made for the New York Yankees in 20 years more than paid his debt. That’s a special guy, and this is the way you want him to go out.”
In his message, Groch encouraged Jeter to remain involved in the game beyond the end of his playing career, either in the Yankees front office or the Commissioner’s Office.
“It would be a tremendous disservice not to have him [in one of those roles],” Groch said. “For what he did in baseball as a player, and what he has left in his career, he has so much of a contribution left. He can make our game better on a lot of levels.
“He has his foundation and he will continue his foundation. That’s also part of what we don’t see. We see his contributions as a baseball player, but we don’t see the humanitarian and philanthropist that he is. So he’s only passed the first hurdle of the contributions he can make to baseball and society.”
Groch chuckled and added, “I thought I was pretty profound with that.”
He and his wife, Nancy, were invited guests of Jeter and the Yankees when Jeter was on the doorstep of 3,000 hits. Brewers GM Doug Melvin gave Groch a hall pass to follow the Yankees as long as it took, so the old scout and the shortstop met on the field at Yankee Stadium with Jeter at 2,998 hits. Groch knew that Jeter was eager to get it over with, but joked that he should take his time. Instead, Jeter went 5-for-5 including a home run for No. 3,000.
“In traditional Jeter approach to the unbelievable, what does he do?” Groch said. “I was sitting behind the dugout on the third base line and [Yankees third base coach] Robby Thomson turned around and looked at me and threw his hands in the air, like, ‘What else?’”
Groch already has plans to be at Miller Park on May 9-11 when Jeter and the Yankees make a rare Interleague visit to Milwaukee.
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Brewers right-hander Donovan Hand will get an opportunity in the coming weeks to win back the 40-man roster spot he lost last week.
The team announced Wednesday that Hand, designated for assignment last week when the Brewers re-signed free agent Francisco Rodriguez, had cleared waivers and been outrighted to the Triple-A Nashville roster. Hand will still be in Milwaukee’s big league camp, but as a non-roster invitee.
Finally headed to spring training … Long week but finally on my way—
Donovan Hand (@DonovanHand) February 12, 2014
The 27-year-old Alabaman nearly won an Opening Day roster spot last year with a strong Spring Training and was ultimately promoted to the Majors in May. He posted a 3.69 ERA in 31 games, seven starts, and pitched to a 3.38 ERA in 10 games in September.
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Updated at 3:55 p.m. CT: It’s official. The Brewers have announced K-Rod’s one-year contract and designated Donovan Hand for assignment. The story over at Brewers.com is being updated now to reflect the done deal.
Francisco Rodriguez is nearing a reunion with the Brewers — again.
A baseball source said the sides were close Friday to sealing a one-year, Major League contract that would return the veteran reliever to Milwaukee, where he has pitched parts of the past three seasons. Rodriguez would earn a $3.25 million base salary, with $550,000 more available in incentives.
The Brewers have not made any announcement. They would need to clear space on a full 40-man roster.
More to come.
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Bob Uecker just spoke in more detail about his decision to curtail his travel schedule in 2014.
It’s obvious that this is a bittersweet decision.
“Sooner or later, you have to bend a little bit,” he said. “And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not saying that I won’t work games down to the end of the season, and if indeed there’s the possibility of the playoffs or anything else, I’m going to do that. But now is the time for me to kind of take a few games off once in a while and enjoy myself — not that I don’t enjoy the games, because I always do. You guys know that. I’m at home at the ballpark as much as I am in my own house.
“But I had some hip surgery in November, and I’m regrouping from that yet. We’ve got Spring Training coming up a few weeks down the road, and I’m going to work the spring games and then go from there. It’s just a personal thing. This is my 59th year [in professional baseball] coming up, so that’s enough on an everyday basis. I know I’m going to miss it, each and every game. The games that I don’t do, I’ll certainly be listening to, and I’ll miss them. I know I will. You don’t do this stuff, especially in Milwaukee, for 44 years, and not miss it.
“[For all his years in broadcasting], I know every day where I’m supposed to be during the summertime. I know where I’m supposed to be, where I’m supposed to go, and that’s to the ballpark. That’s the part that you miss after a while. It’s OK for the first couple of times, but once in a while to miss a game, which I never do anyway … but like I said, I’m kind of looking forward to kicking back a little bit. Other guys do it.”
He mentioned the Dodgers’ Vin Scully and the Reds’ Marty Brennaman, each of whom have cut back their travel in recent years. Uecker said that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has urged Uecker in recent years to smell the roses a bit more.
But Uecker was firm: This decision is not being driven by any concerns about his health.
“It’s not health by any means — not that I know of anyways,” he said. “If it was, I would certainly say that, too. It’s more that it’s time. It’s time to enjoy the summer a little bit, other than doing a baseball game and traveling. [It's time] to hang around and do other things. I know I’m going to miss it. I know I’ll miss friends I have. That’s the thing that you don’t think of sometimes, the friendships you’ve made on the road in all those years. I’ll miss those people, too. That’s another hard part of getting off the road and not doing as many games. … I’m certainly looking forward to taking some time off, and I’m looking forward to the club having a good year, too.”
He wished aloud for better Brewers health in 2014, and spoke with excitement about the addition of Matt Garza to the richest free agent contract in club history. It was Uecker who teed up Attanasio during Brewers On Deck to make the Garza announcement.
Uecker could not say exactly how many games he would skip. He had a general conversation with Attanasio several weeks ago about it, and plans to sit down soon with officials from the Brewers and 620-AM WTMJ, the team’s flagship radio station.
“[Attanasio] told me to do whatever is right for me,” Uecker said. “The games that I’m going to miss would be probably the West Coast games, unless something happens down the road or there are big games coming up. I would do that. Other than that, I’m going to travel. Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati. Hour flights or whatever. I’ll do those games. And always at Miller Park, for the most part.”
He joked that, for all these years, broadcasting “has interfered with my second job, which is driving the truck.”
Seriously, though, “I’m going to miss everything about baseball. I don’t care who it is, a broadcaster, a player, people who work in the front office — once you start on the other half of your journey, so to speak, everybody misses it. You can’t help but miss being around the ballpark if you’ve been around as long as I have.”
But here is an important point:
He is not even thinking of total retirement.
“I really haven’t looked that far ahead,” he said, before laughing and adding, “Although, you know, everybody goes. Down the road, you just do it, that’s all, until either you’re tired or you can’t talk anymore.
I’m not going to embarrass myself, I know that. But there comes a time when everybody has to go. I don’t want to be taking any ‘dirt bath’ now, but everybody, sooner or later, that’s part of living, is going the other way. To be able to continue going and do this at the big league level — man, it’s a great job. I’ve had a great job, not only with baseball, but with all the other stuff I’ve done. It’s all been a big kick for me. Now, everything is recorded and you can go back and look. So it’s not like you quit and you’re gone forever. … When the time comes to get out or leave permanently, I’ll do that, too.”
A highlight of the chat with Uecker came near the end, when Tom Haudricourt joked that Uecker might be taking time off because “Major League IV” is in the works.
The answer was a definite maybe.
“I’ll be honest with you, they’re talking about it,” Uecker said. “The story line is all set, too. They’ve already asked me if I would be in for ‘Major League IV,’ and I told them I would. I’ve talked to the directors. They’re talking about it and they’re pretty serious, but that’s all I can tell you, really. If there was more, I would tell you that, too. They have been talking about it for the last year-plus. As a matter of fact, they called me during the season last year and asked me if I would be in.”
These rumors circulated around Miller Park last summer, too. The story may or may not include Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen’s character) coming back to manage a team.
Whatever the story, Uecker thinks Major League IV would be a hit.
“Major League III stunk, so Major League IV I’m sure is going to be better than Major League III, which they sold to a different company,” he said. “That thing was on airplanes the day after we finished it.”
One last thing: Uecker is, indeed, 80 years old. His birth date has long been listed as Jan. 26, 1935, but that’s flat incorrect. He was born in 1934.
Uecker says he never paid attention, but in recent years when people would ask his age, he began to notice that most sources have it wrong.
“If I was going to cheat on my age, I would certainly make it more than one year,” Uecker said. “This just gets me into the Village at Manor Park sooner.”
First, he still has some baseball games to work. Just not all 162.
“Last year, I thought, ‘I’m coming up on 80 years old, and it’s not a bad idea to kick back and enjoy yourself a little bit and take some time off and catch a few extra fish and do the things I enjoy doing,’” Uecker said. “Like I said before, it’s hard to get out. It’s hard to get away from something you love and something you’ve done for so long.”
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On Sunday, Ryan Braun made his most public appearance since serving a 65-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He took part in the Brewers’ annual fanfest in downtown Milwaukee, and here’s what he had to say before hitting the convention floor:
“I’m excited to be back. It’s always nice to be back. I think since my extended off-season began I’ve been back a few times, and everybody’s been extremely supportive. It’s great to be back. The weather’s a little bit colder than what I’m typically used to this time of the year, but aside from that it’s good to be back. Nice to see everybody and it’ll be nice to interact with the fans.
Has he had much interaction with fans?
“I’ve actually had a lot of interaction with the fans and everybody’s been great,” Braun said. “Everybody’s been incredibly supportive. I know last time I was here with you guys in November you asked about what I expected or anticipated. I don’t really expect or anticipate anything, so we’ll see how it goes.”
How will he handle reception elsewhere?
“I really don’t think about stuff like that very much,” he said. “I try not to focus on the things that are out of my control. With that being said I’ve already experienced this already in the past a couple times. Dealt with it in 2012, dealt with it for the majority of 2013, so I think I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into. As a competitor, in a really odd way I enjoy it. I think it’s fun. I think the more hostile an environment is the more enjoyable it is. I just enjoy that pressure. In a really unique way, I actually enjoy and look forward to it.”
On whether it matters what people think of him: “Absolutely. It really matters to me. I’ve always taken tremendous pride in being a role model. I made a huge mistake. I’ve paid a great price for that mistake. The opportunities I’ve had to reach out to season ticketholders, reach out to suiteholders and interact with people, I let them know that basically I made a mistake. I deeply regret it. I wish I could change it. I recognize I don’t have an opportunity to do that, so all I can do is focus on the present, focus on the future, look forward to this year and go out there and do the things that I’ve done in the past. Hopefully be one of the best players in the game and show them that I learned from my mistake, that I’ve learned from it and that hopefully have become a better person because of it.”
On calling season seatholders during his suspension: “It was great. I think it was a really unique experience. There were a lot of people who really didn’t believe it was me initially. Actually I think everybody was really supportive, which was cool. It was something I had no idea what to expect or anticipate, but I enjoyed it. It was fun.”
Braun said he had only one challenging conversation with a fan, who expressed anger about the suspension.
“It wasn’t surprising in any way,” Braun said. “I made a mistake, I made a big mistake. I don’t expect everybody to be supportive or everybody to be understanding or everybody to understand where I was coming from. Certainly I didn’t anticipate the amount of support I received.”
On his offseason: “Yeah, it’s been unique. Overall, it’s been extremely enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed life more, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better place. From that perspective it’s been beautiful. The wedding was amazing. I’m excited and looking forward to the next year while trying to learn from everything I went through this year.”
Has he ever been more eager to start a season?
“[In] 2011,” Braun said. “I know we were really excited about [Zack] Greinke and [Shaun] Marcum and the fact we had a really good team. I think for me personally, this is probably the most excited I’ve been to start a year.”
On moving to right field: “They just asked if I would be open to it, and I said absolutely. I told them I’d play anywhere other than third base because third base and I didn’t go very well together. I don’t expect it to be easy. In left field you get used to the ball coming off the bat a certain way and a certain direction. In Arizona I’ll have plenty of time to get my work in. It’s something I look forward to, but I expect it to be challenging.
“I’ve taken plenty of fly balls in right field actually. It’s a lot easier typically in right field than in left. Left field you are typically dealing with the shadows a little bit more, you deal with the sun coming down through the panels. For me personally, I think right field, especially at Miller Park, will present less challenges than left field does.”
Is today another step in building back trust with teammates?
“I don’t think of it that way,” Braun said, “but I’m sure it will be to some extent. For sure.”
Does he think there are more apologies ahead?
“I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know?” Braun said. “I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me.”
On the Alex Rodriguez situation: “I haven’t really paid close attention to his situation, so I don’t think it’s right for me to comment on it.”
On this year’s Brewers team: “I think the [Matt] Garza thing is extremely exciting. I’m excited about it. Hopefully it’s something that ends up working out for us [because] I think he could be a difference-maker. Facing him over the last few years, I think he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the toughest at-bats. Great stuff. Very competitive — a fiery competitor, which is something I think could benefit the whole pitching staff and our whole team. Nori [Aoki] getting traded, I think year and year out there’s so much change, so much turnover in the roster. Khris Davis, I think, is going to be a really good player. The organization really believes in him and hopefully it will be a seamless transition there. Mark Reynolds is a guy I’ve known for a long time. We played together in the Fall League, and I’ve known him, actually, since college. So I’m excited to have him on the team and I think he’s going to be big for us, especially in our ballpark.”
Is he worried about production falling off without having an “extra edge?”
“No,” Braun said. “I think I’ll be better than I’ve ever been. Very confident in that.”
Asked whether he was willing to give more details of his timeline of PED use, Braun said, “No. Again, I appreciate there is still interest in this stuff, but I addressed everything in November when I was here for the charity event, and I think I addressed it pretty specifically in the statement that we gave [in August]. I think that addressed it pretty specifically as far as exactly what it was and when it occurred.”
What does he view as the biggest challenge ahead?
“I think the whole experience has been challenging,” Braun said. “I don’t think there’s any specific part of it that’s more challenging than another part. There’s no blueprint. There’s no specific, ‘This is how you deal with a situation like this.’ Not a lot of people have been through something like this. So, certainly, [this is] a unique and challenging set of circumstances, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. So I’m looking forward to everything the future holds.”
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