Off-season treats Ryan Braun well

Off-season treats Ryan Braun well

Brewers

Off-season treats Ryan Braun well

, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lingering trade rumors aside, the off-season was productive as well as a bit tiring for Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun.

“I’ve lacked sleep. That second kid is a game-changer,” he said during a break at the Brewers On Deck fan festival Sunday afternoon at the Wisconsin Center, referring to the late-September addition of son Greyson Joseph to the Braun family. “We’re going on 4-5 hours of sleep most nights, but two hours at a time tops so that aspect of it has been fun but challenging.

“But other than that it’s been the healthiest off-season I’ve had in a long time – knock on wood. I feel great. I’ve been able to do my full workouts and running and everything that I’ve wanted to do and haven’t been able to the last couple off-seasons. So physically, I feel great.

“I’m ready to get going and excited to get to Arizona in a few weeks.”

A year ago at this time Braun was still making his way back from off-season surgery for a herniated disc in his lower back, a procedure that would force him to take a slow-and-steady approach to spring training. That patience eventually paid off, with Braun turning in his most productive season since 2012 as he hit .305 with 30 home runs and 91 runs batted in over 135 games.
Two years ago he was still dealing with the recurring nerve issue in his right thumb, a malady that ultimately was helped by a series of cryogenic shots that essentially froze the area and allowed him to better grip the bat.

Now when position players report to Maryvale on Feb. 17, Braun will be able to hit the ground running with a full off-season of workouts and preparation behind him. That qualifies as good news both for him and a Brewers team that will rely on him more than ever as it enters Year 2 of its rebuild.

“It’s really nice,” Braun said. “It wasn’t something I ever took for granted, but after having gone through a couple off-seasons of doing physical therapy and rehabbing from an injury, it makes me that much more appreciative of it and gives me greater perspective on how fortunate I am to go through a healthy off-season and be able to do everything I want to do.

“I just feel better – stronger, faster, more explosive. I feel really good.”

Now 33, Braun is entering his 11th major-league season and finds himself in the unusual role as the Brewers’ senior statesman. He pointed out that 26-year-old Scooter Gennett is now the second-longest-tenured position player with Milwaukee, “a scary thought for anyone that spends time around us every day. There’s been a lot of turnover, a lot of change.”

Wily Peralta, 27, is the second-most experienced player overall, with just over three years of service to his credit.

“I love it. It’s fun for me,” Braun said of becoming a mentor to the Brewers’ ever-growing ranks of younger players.

“It’s scary how fast that happens – how fast I went from being the young guy to the mentor guy. It’s a little bit scary, but it’s something that I do enjoy. I think one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to have success is because of my routine, and that’s something that I’ve tried to help all the younger guys as they come up to the major leagues – just figure out a routine that works.”

Competition figures to be keen in the outfield this spring, with the veteran Braun and holdovers Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton and Kirk Nieuwenhuis being joined by highly touted prospects Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips and Ryan Cordell.

Michael Reed, who’s had a couple brief tours of duty with the Brewers, also will be in the mix.

“I love that,” said Braun. “I think that competition’s a great thing. It’s a healthy thing for everybody. There’s not just competition for major-league jobs; there’ll be competition at Double-A and Triple-A. There’s a lot of really good players right now in our organization and it’s a good problem to have. I think competition should help everybody get better.

“It should inspire guys to ultimately become the best versions of themselves, and it won’t ever allow complacency. When you know there’s guys behind you that are legitimate prospects that have the opportunity to be impact-level major-league players, you know you have to perform day in and day out, year in and year out if you want to continue to keep your job.”

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