The Brewers have played two Cactus League games so far, and Ryan Braun has yet to step on field during a game. It turns out it'll be a few weeks before we see Braun in the batter's box.
He's not hurt -- in fact, he says he feels the healthiest he can remember. But as General Manager David Stearns noted during Sunday's TV broadcast, Braun likely won't see any game action until after the World Baseball Classic wraps up.
Braun isn't playing in the tournament this year, but the team wants to make sure they avoid any unneccessary rigors after two years of nagging injuries during the regular season. He's never been one to need much time to get up to speed, though. You may remember last spring, when he was still recovering from offseason back surgery. He saw only 16 at-bats in 7 spring games, then went on to hit .333/.409/.577 during the first month of the regular season. Entering his 11th season, he knows what he needs to do during the last couple weeks of camp to get ready.
But it's not like Braun is just loafing around and enjoying the Arizona sun until he's put into the lineup. He's still going through all of the team drills, and with games starting, it's easy to forget just how much work gets put in before and after the exhibitions. Braun told Tom Haudricourt what he’s doing in the meantime:
"A week or two, run around every day, be in cleats for 5-6 hours every day. Throw every day, chase some fly balls, take some routes, take some balls off the bat. Take batting practice every day. I need to do all of those things, but I’ve never felt I’ve needed a ton of at-bats in spring training."
There's a side benefit to holding Braun out for the next few weeks, too -- it gives more at-bats in major league camp for guys like Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell and Brett Phillips, all of whom have provided some memorable moments already this spring and likely will see time in the majors at some point this year.
Brinson crushed two homers in Friday's scrimmage against UWM, while Cordell homered Sunday against the Dodgers and Phillips showed off his athleticism with a Matrix-like slide to briefly give the Brewers the lead.
No Braun in left also means more reps for Scooter Gennett, who's trying to transition into a utility role. Gennett played third on Sunday, but was in left during the UWM game.
During Sunday's broadcast, Stearns also gave an update on another player who has yet to make his spring debut: reliever Neftali Feliz.
As you may remember, Feliz was about a week getting to camp after being hung up in the Dominican Republic with visa issues. He reported to camp once he got his visa, but is still a little behind his fellow pitchers, and given his injury history it may be best not to push him.
Stearns told Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder that we can probably expect Feliz to get into a game sometime this week. Like Braun, one-inning relievers don't take a month to get ready for the season, either, so Feliz's late start shouldn't be much of an issue once we get to April.