Brewers aim to 'move forward' after Braun suspension

July 23rd, 2013

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed disappointment in suspended left fielder Ryan Braun on Monday but was more eager to focus on a future for his ballclub that finally has some clarity.

Club officials had been in the dark about Braun's status until Monday afternoon, when Braun reported to Miller Park to inform Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and then teammates that he had been suspended for the remainder of 2013 for violations of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Major League Baseball announced the suspension shortly thereafter, while the Brewers were taking batting practice ahead of their series opener against San Diego.

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Even while losing his most productive player, Melvin felt a sense of relief.

"We can move forward starting tonight," Melvin said. "We'll have someone else here tomorrow [to take Braun's roster spot] and we'll try to win as many games as we can. It's been a disappointing year for Ryan with his injuries, but with this behind us now, I think it gives us a much better focus for the offseason and what we can do."

The Brewers fell to 41-57 with Monday's 5-3 loss to the Padres and are in last place in the National League Central, 19 games behind the division-leading Cardinals. Melvin has been listening to trade offers, most notably for relievers and free-agents-to-be Michael Gonzalez and Francisco Rodriguez, with an eye toward starting over in 2014.

"We are disappointed with the news today of the suspension of Ryan Braun and his admitted mistakes," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement. "It's clear that Ryan used bad judgment, but we accept his apology and believe that he should be given the opportunity to redeem himself.

"We have always been and continue to remain strong supporters of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Testing Program, an initiative that strives to ensure the integrity of the game."

Braun will not count against Milwaukee's 40-man roster during his suspension and will be replaced on the 25-man roster Tuesday by Khris Davis, who is being called up from Triple-A Nashville. When center fielder Carlos Gomez returns to action (he was sidelined Monday by nagging elbow, hand and shoulder soreness), Logan Schafer figures to be the Brewers' regular left fielder.

When Schafer is needed in center field or right, then right-handed hitting Davis or left-handed hitting Caleb Gindl could man left field.

"As far as myself, the coaching staff, players, we're certainly disappointed in the news that we received today," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The suspension obviously affects us the rest of the year for what we do and where we're trying to go. As far as the investigation and the suspension, I know everybody thinks that we know what was going on -- I really knew nothing. I found out today, when I got to the ballpark, that he was going to be suspended today."

Said Melvin: "As the general manager, I'm somewhat happy that this is over with so we can move forward."

Braun will forfeit just shy of $3.5 million during his suspension but is guaranteed more than $120 million over the remainder of his club-record contract with the Brewers. He is signed through at least 2020.

"Yeah, I'm disappointed," Melvin said. "Obviously, I'm disappointed. He's a very important player to our organization and to the ballclub and to our performance on the field."

Melvin declined to detail the tone of his conversation with Braun, and when asked whether he believed Braun owed to fans a more detailed explanation than the statement he issued Monday, Melvin said, "I think that's Ryan's decision."

Braun pulled several longtime teammates aside for private discussions before addressing the full team for 5-10 minutes at about 3 p.m. CT. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of Braun's most outspoken allies over the past year and a half, said Braun's comments were similar to the statement he released via Major League Baseball, in which Braun acknowledged "mistakes" but never explicitly admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.

Second baseman Rickie Weeks characterized the mood during the meeting as "somber" and said Braun appeared embarrassed. Lucroy said Braun was "depressed," and, like reliever John Axford, was eager to get more facts about what specific infractions Braun was being suspended for.

"Coming into the ballpark and hearing this today, I was shocked," Weeks said. "I'm at a loss for words right now, to tell you the truth."

Lucroy was asked whether he and other teammates felt deceived, given Braun's long insistence about his innocence.

"Yeah, sure, I felt that way," Lucroy said. "He came up to me before the meeting and told me about it and he said, 'I'm sorry. I screwed up.'" I said, 'OK,' and I forgave him. That's tough; when people make a mistake it's tough to forgive them, but I think it's a bigger person who will forgive them than who will sit there and wear him out, hold a grudge against him."

Right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who dealt with his own off-the-field controversy in April when he was arrested and cited for drunk driving, said he still believed Braun has never taken PEDs.

"That's only my opinion," Gallardo said. "Other guys may have different opinions. ... I know the kind of guy he is. We were roommates in the Minor Leagues. It's tough for all of us, but we know what kind of guy he is."

Lucroy said he believed the same when he reported for work on Monday.

And when Lucroy left for the night?

"You know what? I still forgive him, man," Lucroy said. "He made a mistake. Lots of people make mistakes. I'm not sitting here acting like I'm perfect; I'm not. Nobody in here -- none of y'all are perfect. He made a mistake, I forgive him, now let's move on."