Ryan Braun's right thumb is still an issue, and the only solution may be surgery.
Braun has been dealing with nerve issue in his thumb since early in 2013, a season during which he .298/.372/.498 with 11 home runs before sitting out the final 65 games due to suspension. While most players would love to put up those kinds of numbers, they represented arguably the worst season of Braun's career.
The injury also forced Braun to the disabled list in June last year for the first time in his career. He said this off-seasonthat he had been feeling good and his time away had allowed him to heal. Braun also crushed the ball in spring training with a 1.306 OPS, so there was little reason to doubt that.
Now, however, he is suffering from numbness bad enough that he can no longer tell how hard he is gripping a baseball. He has also developed a bad case of blisters.
For the time being, Braun is refusing to have surgery due to there being no guarantee it actually fixes the problem. However, if he can not find a way to manage the injury it may be his only course of action. B
So far this year, Braun has picked up just one hit in his first 12 plate appearances. He will be the Brewers designated hitter in the first game of the team's series against the Red Sox beginning this afternoon, perhaps as a way to mitigate the effect of his thumb.
You don't need me to tell you that losing Braun would be the worst possible thing to happen to the Brewers this season. He is the star of the team, and is necessary if the Brewers hope to make the playoffs. As a fringe contender, the team can hardly afford to lose someone like Khris Davis or Wily Peralta. Losing Braun for an extended period of time would spell disaster.
Obviously Braun has been able to play so far this year and, other than his power being drained, was still an elite hitter in 2013. A surgery on his thumb doesn't seem like it would keep him out for months, but I hazard to make an actual guess as to how long he would need to be out if he does undergo the procedure.
Maybe while the Brewers are in Boston, Braun can ask Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino about his procedure. Victorino had successful nerve release surgery in his right thumb in mid-December and was back for spring training.