Braun dismisses dismal March stats
But, for those in Brewer Nation concerned that Braun won't be ready when the bell rings for the regular season, Milwaukee's all-star leftfielder had a firm message Wednesday.
"I'll be good on April 6," he said. "I'm ready."
Spring training results often mean little. Some players tear it up during exhibitions, then watch their bats go into an ice age when the season begins. Others can't buy a hit in the spring, then blister enemy pitching when the games count.
Braun's history suggests that he'll be in the latter group. He didn't play in the Brewers' exhibition game against Arizona at Maryvale Baseball Park, leaving him with a .143 batting average, .250 slugging percentage and .314 on-base percentage this spring.
The reigning National League most valuable player certainly had every reason to lose focus as spring training began. He had a tumultuous winter in which a positive drug test and successful appeal of a 50-game suspension played out publicly when news leaked to the media, airing the supposedly confidential process.
That saga led to an emotional press conference at the outset of camp in which Braun vigorously defended his innocence and verbally fought for his reputation and status in the game. Under those circumstances, it would be understandable for any player to get off to a poor start on the field.
Braun insisted that his head is in the right place, however, results be damned.
"For me, I'm always confident," he said. "It's not so much about my head."
Another thing to remember is that manager Ron Roenicke has brought Braun along slowly in camp. He has only 28 at-bats (four hits, one homer), while most of the other regulars have batted 40 to 50 times.
Roenicke followed a similar plan with Braun last spring, which worked to perfection when Braun locked in his swing almost immediately.
"Last year, he had a real good spring, but he didn't have many at-bats," said Roenicke. "He didn't need them. He'll play more this last week.
"I still think he's going to have enough at-bats here that he should be comfortable going into the season. I hope these last few days here are good and he carries it over.
"I think this next week you're going to see him hopefully get locked in a little better so he doesn't feel like he does have to flip the switch on opening day. If he can get going here a little bit, he'll be OK."
Despite his relaxed schedule to date and struggles at the plate, Braun let it be known that he's ready to break camp and get after it.
"I feel like spring training is way too long every year," he said. "It feels like we're here forever. The last two weeks, I think for all of us, when we get bored it becomes monotonous. The focus is solely on the season now.
"The starting pitchers need that additional time. But for us, three weeks would be plenty. Four weeks is pushing it. Anything beyond that is too long."
Though Braun has yet to start driving the ball consistently in games, Roenicke has noted for some time that his No. 3 hitter has looked sensational in batting practice.
The thinking is that at some point that work will carry over into games and Braun will look like the slugger who has terrorized NL pitching for five seasons.
"For me, my focus is on my bat path and my body, feeling my legs underneath my swing to have proper balance, that I'm on time and can hit the ball where it's pitched," said Braun. "I feel good."
Beyond the never-failing confidence in his ability, Braun believes another big year is in the offing for the Brewers. The preseason magazines are starting to hit the shelves, with Milwaukee being picked by many to finish third in the NL Central behind St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Braun said those prognostications mean absolutely zilch.
"I don't pay attention to any of that stuff," he said. "None of it is relevant in any way. It means nothing.
"That stuff doesn't factor into the way that we feel about ourselves or our preparation or anything else. It's not like we're going to go out there and say, 'We're supposed to finish third. Let's not try as hard.'
"We know we're going to be good. We know that we'll be in a position where we have a chance to be successful. It's a matter of staying healthy. There are a million things that factor into it.
"There's no doubt in my mind we're going to be good. What good means remains to be seen but we'll be good."