PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun added to his growing collection of baseball gloves on Monday, when the Wilson clients in Brewers camp eagerly picked up some new leather for the season.Braun received two new customized A2000 outfield gloves, in addition to the first baseman's mitts dropped off last week. He made
PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun added to his growing collection of baseball gloves on Monday, when the Wilson clients in Brewers camp eagerly picked up some new leather for the season.
Braun received two new customized A2000 outfield gloves, in addition to the first baseman's mitts dropped off last week. He made his first spring start on Monday as the Brewers' left fielder, but the plan calls for Braun to make his unofficial debut at first base on Wednesday, when the Brewers host the Giants at Maryvale Baseball Park.
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And since he's been talking about second base so much, forward-thinking Brewers equipment manager Jason Shawger had Wilson make Braun a middle infield glove, too.
"I'm making your jobs a little bit tougher now, needing a few extra gloves," Braun told the Wilson reps.
It's been a crash course for Braun at first base, where he is relying on his history on the other side of the infield, which includes time as a collegiate shortstop, before moving to third base through his rookie season in the Major Leagues. Monday marked one week since Brewers positon players formally reported to camp.
Early returns on his work at first base have been positive. He's learning all of the little nuances of the positon, from footwork, to positioning on shifts, cutoffs and relays.
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"The games will tell you where you need to make the most adjustments," Braun said. "By no means do I expect to be perfect, and I don't fear failure at any of the other positions I might play this spring. It's something I'm looking forward to, for sure. The more games I play, the better idea we'll have about whether it will be an option. Obviously, it will have a significant impact on what our [Opening Day roster] looks like."
It was Braun's choice to play a game in left field on Monday before debuting at first base, he said. He hit the second spring pitch he saw for a first-inning single, then drew a walk in the third inning.
"They wanted me in the infield today. I said, 'I need a couple more days,'" Braun said. "I don't quite know what I'm doing yet. I don't know the footwork. I don't know any of the bunt plays or first and third plays. Probably later this week, I'll be in the infield."
There's more to first base than fielding grounders and catching throws. Those are the easy parts, especially in the age of infield shifts. Braun found himself keeping a close eye on both teams' first basemen on Monday to track their movements.
There's also the physical differences between the outfield and the infield. In the long run, playing some first base should ease the physical toll on Braun's body, since he won't be diving in the outfield or crashing into walls. In the short-term, he's being cautious.
"The biggest challenge for me is making sure I can take 50-100 ground balls a day and it doesn't hurt my back," said Braun, who had back surgery following the 2016 season. "Obviously, my back is something I'm always concerned about and trying to do maintenance work on. It's just a different challenge physically, bending over and taking an extra 100 ground balls a day versus running in the outfield."
While Braun continued breaking in his new gloves, others added to their own collections. Before the Brewers took the field, Oliver Drake was already working with a hammer-like device in the clubhouse to break in a blond pitcher's model. Outfielder Brett Phillips designed a beautiful, bright blue A2000 he hoped to wear for some Brewers "retro Friday" games this season, but he accidentally ordered the wrong length.
Jonathan Villar had better luck. Last year, he ordered a red, white and blue glove to represent the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, in addition to another in the Brewers' retro yellow and royal blue. This year, he tweaked his design for the retro glove, and added another in black and white, which would be a perfect match for the Milwaukee Bears uniforms the Brewers wear for their Negro Leagues tribute game.
Villar had the names of his late grandfather and grandmother stitched on one glove, and his kids' names on the other.
What's better: A new glove, or a new bat?
"A new glove," Villar said. "We have a lot of bats right here, but a glove? Only one for the year. We are more excited for that."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.