Almost immediately after the of the Brewers season, right fielder Ryan Braun underwent a cryotherapy proedure to numb the pain in his nerve-damaged right thumb. It appears he will need to undergo the procedure two more times before 2015.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash appeared on Sportsnet Canada to discuss the recent Adam Lind trade and was also asked about Ryan Braun's progress since undergoing the medical procedure. Full audio of the interview is here, but here's Ash's quote about Braun:
"Initially the reports are very favorable. He had some cryotherapy injection and hit three or four days after and reported not the same level of pain, it was more tolerable. He'll have another one of those in January and then probably another one before the season. He's hopeful and since he's hopeful, we're hopeful."
Thus, the Braun medical saga is not yet over. It wasn't, anyway, until he's at least mostly healthy and hopefully back-to-normal, but I guess it's even less over than we thought. One injection of the freezy stuff to the nerve apparently isn't quite enough -- my non-medical guess is that the added one-or-two procedures will ensure that the effects will not wear off in brief order.
It's already fairly clear that the procedures do not really hinder Braun heavily nor do they require a great amount of recovery time. As Ash mentions, Braun was already taking swings just days after his first injection. That said, Braun will wait until January before he starts hitting on a more regular basis.
General manager Doug Melvin says that Braun has gone as far as to take batting practice off live pitching, but won't have more definite knowledge of how much the cryotherapy is helping until Braun starts playing more consistently.
Braun, who will be 31 in November, originally hoped that simple rest and rehabilitation would fix the damaged nerve. He had a long offseason during which to rest the injury after missing most of the second half of 2013 with a 65-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, the pain flared up again as early as spring training this past season. Subsequently, he was unable to fully grip his bat, stating that he was batting one handed much of the season for all intents and purposes. That led to him hitting just .266/.324/.453 with 19 home runs in 2014.
The Brewers have Braun locked into a contract for another six years and $103 million, a significant investment for the smallest market in baseball. Though the team has a strong lineup and pitching staff, their success in 2015 and beyond relies perhaps most strongly on whether Ryan Braun can even come close to what he once was.
With two more medical procedures before next season even begins, here's hoping Braun truly feels better and nothing flares up in spring training again.