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03/16/12 4:24 PM ET
Off to sluggish start, Braun to increase workload
After eventful offseason, Brewers star trying to find stroke
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is off to an unusually quiet start to Spring Training, and his manager cannot help but note the connection to Braun's tumultuous offseason. "Mentally, this camp, it's different for him this year," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He's always had these nice, restful offseasons, and he's come into camp ready to really get after it. "[This year] he hasn't been able to do that. He's coming into camp and he's still trying to find some things." Braun is off to a 1-for-13 start in his first seven Cactus League games, the lone hit a long home run on March 8 against the Reds. Braun's uncharacteristically sluggish start -- small sample size duly noted -- comes after a winter in which he stared down a 50-game drug suspension.
He successfully appealed, the first Major Leaguer to do so, and reported to Spring Training under an unprecedented spotlight."I get it," Braun said last week. "I know people are going to be paying more attention. But for me, my goal is to try to have the same approach I've always had. Prepare myself for the start of the season." Typically, that means only a limited number of Spring Training at-bats. But given his early mini-slump, Braun and Roenicke have discussed an increased workload beginning in the coming days. Braun has been playing every other day and has appeared exclusively in home games, but he will don a road uniform for Saturday's game at Tempe against the Angels. "We talk a lot, and the conversations are trying to get him ready for Opening Day," Roenicke said. "This year is a little bit different than it was last year. Last year, he was good early. Right now, he's trying to find it. "I don't think necessarily having him out there every day, grinding it, is the right way to go about it. It may come to that." Historically, Braun finds it immediately. In five full Spring Trainings, he has batted .325 or better three times. In 2009, he hit .280 while nursing a rib-cage strain. His only poor spring was 2010, when Braun batted .250 in the Cactus League. Roenicke figures that Braun is a good enough hitter that one good at-bat can lock him in. There is still plenty of time; the Brewers' season opener is three weeks from Friday, on April 6 against the Cardinals at Miller Park. "He may talk to me in a few days and decide, 'I need to play more,'" Roenicke said. "Aramis [Ramirez] has said that. Brauny is going to do the same thing -- he's going to come to me one of these days. We've already talked about what I'm thinking, what he's thinking. ... "When he's out there and playing, it's nice because he doesn't have any thoughts about anything going on [off the field]. He can just focus on what he's doing out there."