Brewers star right fielder and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun officially underwent cryotherapy surgery on his right hand Thursday morning, the Brewers announced on Twitter.
The procedure was performed by Dr. Vernon Williams in Los Angeles. Braun will meet with Dr. Williams again next week Monday and, if all looks well, will swing a bat right away to test the effectiveness of the surgery.
According to Adam McCalvy at MLB.com, the procedure involved inserting a needle into the base of his troublesome right thumb to freeze the damaged nerve that has, in effect, forced Braun to swing one-handed for the better part of the last two seasons. According to Brewers assistent GM Gord Ash, other athletes have undergone similar treatments. However, Braun is the first MLB player to do so.
Ash downplayed any optimism on how effective this treatment will be for Braun, telling McCalvy: "I don't think anybody can tell us [the likelihood of success]."
If this treatment does not work, however, it sounds like the Brewers may be out of options for the time being. Ash says that there is 'no plan B' currently in place if cryotherapy does not work. Originally, Braun attempted to simply rest and rehab the thumb over an extended off-season. However, the pain and numbness flared back up in spring training and caused a career-worst year. Over 135 games, Braun hit just .266/.324/.453 with 19 home runs.
Even if the surgery is successful, Braun will reportedly never feel quite the same in his hand again. The hope, however, is that he can return to an All Star level of hitting with the pain receptors in his hand sufficiently dulled. With a healthy Braun, the Brewers may very well have been in the postseason right now.
Braun detailed how the injury forced him to change his swing in McCalvy's article:
"It impacts my bat speed, it impacts my bat path, it impacts everything I'm trying to do as a hitter. And then mentally, knowing where I'm at physically is difficult, too. I have to change my swing, I have to start my swing earlier, I have to do a lot of things that I'm not used to doing.None of these things are an excuse. We play a results-oriented game, and at the end of the day, I didn't perform up to the level I expected to perform, regardless of where I'm at physically."
The Brewers and Braun had initially thought about having the surgery done when the team was in Los Angeles for a series against the Dodgers in mid-August. That idea was nixed, however, when the results were uncertain and the Brewers still wanted to be sure Braun could play while they were in the thick of a playoff chase.
That, along with the fact that Braun could test his swing as early as Monday, suggests that there will be little recovery time from the procedure.