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Braun scores twice in return from disabled list

Nottingham optioned; Albers set for Triple-A rehab stint
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun is back. Now, can he produce in the second half for a team that needs offense?

The Brewers activated Braun from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday after he dealt with a back/rib-cage injury and slotted him into the cleanup spot against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers at Miller Park. The team optioned rookie catcher Jacob Nottingham back to Triple-A Colorado Springs to make room for Braun, who has battled injuries all season and has 63 regular-season games remaining to turn around what so far has been the least productive of his 12 Major League seasons.

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MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun is back. Now, can he produce in the second half for a team that needs offense?

The Brewers activated Braun from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday after he dealt with a back/rib-cage injury and slotted him into the cleanup spot against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers at Miller Park. The team optioned rookie catcher Jacob Nottingham back to Triple-A Colorado Springs to make room for Braun, who has battled injuries all season and has 63 regular-season games remaining to turn around what so far has been the least productive of his 12 Major League seasons.

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Braun went 1-for-3 with two runs scored in his return, which saw the Brewers snap a seven-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Los Angeles.

He hit the All-Star break with a .235/.283/.427 slash line, with 84 weighted runs created plus and a .301 weighted on-base average -- career lows across the board.

"He didn't have a great first half and I think he'd tell you that," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I think his 'expected' [numbers] based on how he hit the ball was better than his surface line shows. I expect him to be better this half just because I think his luck will even out, first of all, but I think he'll play better.

"He's important for us. He's an important option and I'd like to get him in there on a semi-regular basis, for sure."

Braun missed a handful of games last month to have cryotherapy treatment on his troublesome right thumb, but his surgically repaired back is the chief concern for the second half. Twice, he has hit the DL because of back or rib-cage discomfort.

"Anything back, oblique, intercostal, in that area, it's going to be about explosive, rotational exercises. Obviously swinging is at the front of that, but also diving into walls, running, throwing at full speed, stuff like that," Braun said. "So you try to figure out a routine that puts you in optimal position to stay healthy, and I think the routine that I've always had is something I'm going to have to continue to alter, just a little different now obviously at 34 than it was at 24.

"So much is trial and error, just figuring out what makes the most sense to try to put myself in the ideal position to stay healthy when I'm dealing with back issues."

Nottingham, the Brewers' No. 25 prospect, is 4-for-20 in seven games over multiple stints with the Brewers this season.

Last call
• Rather than risk a rainout at Class A Wisconsin, reliever Matt Albers remained at Miller Park on Saturday and faced hitters in a 30-pitch simulated game. His next assignment is at Triple-A Colorado Springs, as the right-hander works back from a right shoulder injury.

"It was a good step," Albers said. "At least one more outing, maybe two, and then we'll see."

Albers posted a 3.45 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 25 appearances before his injury. His progress comes as Brewers officials weigh the merits of trading for a reliever ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

• First baseman/outfielder Eric Thames was on the field for batting practice for a third straight day Saturday, a good sign he's making progress in a comeback from a right hamstring strain. Thames is eligible to come off the 10-day DL on Tuesday.

Jonathan Villar has not done any hitting since the Brewers placed him on the disabled list just before the All-Star break with a right thumb injury. It's unclear when Villar will be back, which is notable because the Brewers are in the market for middle infielders after finishing as runner-up for Manny Machado before he was traded to the Dodgers.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun, Jacob Nottingham