PHOENIX -- Some new first baseman's mitts awaited Ryan Braun at Maryvale Baseball Park on Monday, but it struck him that he will need something else to begin a re-acclimation to the infield."I don't know if this is R-rated," Braun said with a grin, "but in the outfield, not too
PHOENIX -- Some new first baseman's mitts awaited Ryan Braun at Maryvale Baseball Park on Monday, but it struck him that he will need something else to begin a re-acclimation to the infield.
"I don't know if this is R-rated," Braun said with a grin, "but in the outfield, not too many guys wear a cup. So I haven't worn a cup in over 10 years. I'll have to get one of those before I get super comfortable taking ground balls again."
One he's properly outfitted it figures to be a busy Spring Training for Braun, who moved from the infield to the outfield 10 years ago this spring and has been there ever since. Now, in the wake of the Brewers' splashy offseason additions of fellow outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, Braun will try his hand at first base in an effort to help manager Craig Counsell spread at-bats around.
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The plan has many moving parts, and the order in which they fall into place will dictate how much time Braun actually sees on the infield in the regular season. Besides Braun, Cain and Yelich, the Brewers have right fielder Domingo Santana coming off a 30-homer breakthrough season, plus a pair improving players in Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips with Minor League options. At first base, they already have a productive platoon in Eric Thames (31 homers, .877 OPS last season) and out-of-options Jesus Aguilar (.837 OPS).
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Some might call that a logjam, but Brewers general manager David Stearns prefers to call it depth. A trade for a starting pitcher remains a possibility, and a spring injury or two could alter the plan.
But the first step, all parties agree, is to give Braun some infield reps to see how it works.
"We'll figure it out as we go," Braun said. "I don't know what the plan is as far as how often I'll be at each position, but it's something I'm looking forward to. Hopefully, if I'm more versatile, ultimately it should help our team in a lot of different ways."
He added, "I don't expect it to be easy by any means. I expect it to be challenging."
Braun has already begun confronting that challenge, taking grounders at Pepperdine University in recent weeks with a couple of other Major League infielders. One was Mike Moustakas, the former Royals third baseman who is still out there in free agency. Another was Trevor Plouffe, a longtime friend whose agent had some offseason conversations with the Brewers before heading to the Rangers as a non-roster invitee.
They took turns hitting fungoes to each other, and Braun was encouraged by how it went.
"It didn't feel as foreign to me as I expected it to," he said.
It will be an "ongoing conversation," Braun said, as the Brewers' roster evolves and he and the coaches asses his ability at first base. He will also prepare as usual to play the outfield, and while he is most comfortable in left field, Braun didn't close the door on returning to right if that is the best fit. He started in right field for the Brewers in 2014 and '15 after Khris Davis came up to Milwaukee, and Yelich won a Gold Glove Award as a left fielder for the Marlins.
Braun may adopt a more aggressive Cactus League schedule this year to get the game reps he needs to feel ready. One big plus, especially after a season in which he was limited to 105 games by calf and wrist injuries: He reported to camp in full health.
"More than anything, it's rejuvenating that we're expecting to win now and we're expecting to contend. The challenge of playing a new position … is a challenge I'm looking forward to."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.