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Braun’s injury a source of concern for Brewers

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McClatchy Tribune
March 26, 2009
— How badly injured is Ryan Braun?

That was the major question in the Milwaukee Brewers’ training camp Wednesday, and nobody seemed to have the answer. Not club officials. Not medical personnel. Not even Braun himself.


“We’ll have more for you (Thursday),” said Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, an indication that Braun will be sent for medical tests, including an MRI.


“Of course, you have to be concerned.”


The guessing game began after Braun exited the Brewers’ exhibition contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers after two at-bats. He walked in both at-bats, never swinging the bat, yet insisted that approach wasn’t related to the intercostal tightness he suffered while playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.


“I was taking a strike,” said Braun. “Then I didn’t get a pitch to hit.”


It was announced in the press box that Braun left the game with “right side stiffness.” That seemed to be a huge red flag, since his intercostal tightness is on that side.


It’s the same injury that compromised Braun greatly as a hitter during the final six weeks of last season, but he insisted he didn’t ask out of the game.


“I’m fine,” said Braun. “I continue to treat it. It’s not 100 percent, but I’m fine.”


After his second at-bat, Braun said he was asked by trainer Roger Caplinger how he felt. Braun said he must have said something that concerned Caplinger, who then conferred with manager Ken Macha.


Braun was told to report to the trainer’s room to be examined by assistant trainer Dan Wright.


“I’m OK,” Braun insisted. “They know it’s not 100 percent, but I wanted to get some at-bats. I was talking to Roger and he asked me how it felt. I said, ’It feels fine. It’s not 100 percent.’


“He asked why it’s not 100 percent. I said it’s not quite where I want it to be or need it to be.”


Asked what he thought was going on with Braun, Macha said, “I have no idea. He took BP today and I asked him how he felt. He said, ‘Fine.’ I was here at 7 a.m., working out, and he was in there doing his exercises.


“Roger said he wanted (Braun) out of the game. I don’t want the guy to get hurt. He didn’t swing the bat. He stood there for eight pitches and walked twice. Don’t read anything into anything. Let’s find out what’s going on.”


Braun didn’t seem to know what to expect next. In fact, he seemed a bit bemused by the entire situation because he couldn’t really explain it.


“I don’t know. I really don’t,” he said. “It’s a frustrating injury, but I think I’ll be all right.”


Braun said he’d leave it to Macha and the trainers as to whether he’d play today, but that is highly unlikely, considering Ash’s comments.


After sitting out two games in the second round of the WBC with the tightness, Braun returned to action Sunday in the semifinals against Japan. He said the problem did not bother him in that game.


“I was playing in that game,” he said. “I made it a point.”


Braun said he was asked during the WBC to get an MRI but declined. He said he still didn’t think he needed such a test.


“At the beginning of spring training and the first few games of the World Baseball Classic, it felt fine,” said Braun, who batted .381 (8 for 21) with one homer, two doubles and two RBI for Team USA. “I didn’t feel it at all. I wasn’t restricted at all. It was a non-issue.


“If it was something like (a cracked rib), I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I wouldn’t be able to walk around. It’s nothing like that.


“Obviously, it’s not very exciting or very encouraging that it’s come back in the same area. I try not to dwell or focus on any negative things or injuries. Thinking about it or talking about it is not going to make it better.”


If Braun were lost for any length of time or rendered ineffective by the injury, it would be a huge blow to the Brewers’ hopes of returning to the playoffs. In his first two seasons in the majors, he has socked 71 home runs and driven in 203 runs in 264 games.


Braun first suffered intercostal tightness last August and sat out six games, hoping the injury would heal. It did not, and he struggled through September, batting .208 with three home runs and 11 RBI, insisting throughout that he was not hampered.


After hitting a walk-off grand slam against Pittsburgh in the final week of the season, Braun finally admitted the injury had plagued him for weeks. With the same problem resurfacing, albeit with less severity, he was asked if he feared it could bother him all season.


“It’s not something I’ve thought much about,” he insisted. “I’m not one to dwell on negative things. I recognize it’s in the same area. That’s not a good thing, but I don’t see it being a chronic issue.


“It’s a weird injury. It moves around; it comes and it goes. I don’t even know how to describe it or explain it. It’s weird.”


So weird that no one seems to have the answer. Which has folks in the Brewers’ camp more than a bit nervous.



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