Braun homers in first at-bat after ban
The slugger hit a two-run homer yesterday in his first at-bat for the Milwaukee Brewers since completing a season-ending, 65-game suspension in 2013 for violating Major League Baseball's anti-drug agreement.
In the first inning of Milwaukee's spring opener against Oakland in Phoenix, Braun hit an 0-1 pitch off Tommy Milone high over the wall near the leftfield corner, 345 feet away. The 2011 NL MVP got a hearty round of cheers, the loudest coming from fans in the dozen rows or so behind the Brewers bench at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the spring home of the Athletics.
"It's still the first day of spring training. Better to hit the ball hard then to strike out," Braun said. "The goal is to have a gradual progression to prepare myself for the season."
Braun took it in stride.
"I've never experienced them not yelling at me," he said. "They have some new things to yell at me for, to yell at me about."
It was Braun's first game in the Brewers' lineup since July 21, 2013. The five-time All-Star accepted a 65-game penalty the next day for his involvement with Biogenesis, a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Braun took a quick jog around the bases and exchanged high-fives with teammates awaiting him at the dugout after the homer. The right thumb injury that hampered him last season doesn't seem to be a bother, either.
Leading off the third, Braun was greeted by even more cheers, including a supporter wearing a home white No. 8 jersey clapping loudly. Phil Humber retired Braun on a hard bouncer to short.
Braun also made his debut with the Brewers in rightfield after spending the last six seasons primarily as a leftfielder. He was lifted in the top of the fourth for a pinch-hitter.
Noteworthy* Los Angeles Dodgers righthander Zack Greinke left his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks after throwing just four pitches because of a mild right calf strain. "I think it's minor, but we'll see," Greinke said. "I don't know exactly what it was, but it felt kind of like a cramp."
Grienke was making his first spring start after saying he had "zero interest" making the trip for the Dodgers' two regular-season games in Sydney, Australia, March 22-23 against Arizona.
But now Geinke says he'd like to start a game Sydney Cricket Ground.
"If we're going to be there, which obviously we are, then, yes, I'd like to pitch over there," he said. "I'm looking forward to flying over there.
"No one wants me to say it this way, but in my vote, if we could go over there, my vote was not to," he said. "But more people wanted to go than not. So, now that we are going, I want to be there. I don't want to not go and have the rest of the team go and have to play and me sit here watching. I also don't want to go over there and watch. I want to go over there and play, since that's what we're doing."
His initial comments, he said, were based on concerns that the trip would alter his spring training.
"It's just the routine thing," he said. "I want to pitch good. I want to win games. When you're forced to do something you're not used to doing, it's harder to be able to do it at the best of your abilities. It's still possible, but it makes it harder."
* Colorado Rockies pitcher Jayson Aquino has been taken to a hospital for tests after being hit in the head by a line drive during an intrasquad game. The lefthander didn't go down and was able to walk off the field after Rafael Ynoa's liner hit him just above the ear. Asked whether Aquino, 21, may have sustained a concussion, manager Walt Weiss called it a "possibility."
* The New York Mets say an MRI on pitcher Jon Niese's ailing left shoulder did not show any major problems. Projected to be the Mets' opening-day starter, Niese had been scratched from his opening exhibition start, against Houston next Tuesday, and replaced by Zack Wheeler. Mets manager Terry Collins says the club will have Niese back on the mound, "as soon as we can."
"There's no shoulder problems at all," Collins said. "He's got some weakness in his scap [scapula] area that is minor. They think in a few days he'll be back and ready to go. It was very, very good news."
* Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford was scratched from playing in spring training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks because of tightness in his right quadriceps.
"We don't feel like this is anything that's going to linger," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Thursday's game. "But it is part of the process with Carl. We know that we've got to be careful with him."
Crawford was not scheduled to play today against the Chicago White Sox and is not likely to participate in any running drills until the leg feels better. He was sidelined for 30 games last season because of an injury to his left hamstring.