The Milwaukee Brewers opened the season getting past the Ryan Braun drama. Only to have it begin again. A season that has started with promise for the Brewers is now cast in doubt for the team and for Braun. The Milwaukee slugger has aggravated an old injury to his right thumb and for the moment all Braun and the Brewers can do is wait and see how it heals.
Braun is coming off a spring training that eased concerns about the right fielder playing for the first time after serving a 65-game suspension last summer for involvement with PEDs. He hit .417 during the spring and added three home runs and nine RBI and seemed poised for a big season. However since the Brewers came North from spring training Braun has struggled with just one hit in 16 at bats this season. He has now gone nearly 100 at bats dating back to last season without a home run.
It was not until Friday night though that Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke became concerned however. After what Roenicke deemed “poor swings” Friday in Boston against the Red Sox, Roenicke sat Braun down Saturday. So for now Braun is frustrated, Roenicke is worried and the Brewers are hoping rest is the answer.
“The challenging thing is when I can’t take a normal swing,” Braun said.
Braun has an inflamed nerve between his right thumb and forefinger that has caused pain and numbness for nearly a year now. After resting the thumb all winter Braun had apparently experienced some relief but once spring training began the issue began to slowly reveal itself again.
Braun, for his part has been steadfast in his refusal to have surgery as it would likely mean the end of the season for him. So for the moment Roenicke and Braun will try to manage the situation, hoping it gets better as the weather gets warmer and the thumb has more time to heal.
This could not come at a worse time for the Brewers, off to a good start in the first week of the 2014 season. Milwaukee is 3-2 despite getting almost nothing from Braun. Yovani Gallardo has led a pitching staff that has been bolstered by a blistering start from Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez, both of whom are hitting over .400 with nine RBI between them. Jonathan Lucroy is also hitting .368 with an OPS of 1.060.
In short, the Brewers are playing well, their lineup is hot and they have not needed their best player yet. They will though. The question for now is when? When will they need him and when will he be back? As good as they have been this first week of the season without Braun is a scenario Roenicke and the Brewer faithful do not want to face.
So whether he likes it or not the drama will continue as Braun and the Brewers worry about an injury that they can not do anything about at the moment. Braun is innocent of blame in this drama, unlike last season and the PED suspension he received. However, at least last season he knew the outcome he and the Brewers faced. This season, one initially filled with hope, the Milwaukee Brewers and Ryan Braun have idea what comes next.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Sports Writer covering the Milwaukee Brewers