Braun not ready to say 'retired' just yet

March 16th, 2021

PHOENIX -- still wasn’t ready to say the word “retired” when he made a surprise visit to Brewers camp on Monday.

He wasn’t any closer to picking up a baseball bat, either.

Braun, a free agent since the Brewers declined a mutual contract option without fanfare in October, hopped on a flight to Phoenix with the club’s principal owner, Mark Attanasio, for a visit with and other former teammates, followed by a couple of innings in the radio booth with Bob Uecker during the team's 13-3 Cactus League loss to the Padres.

Braun, 37, said he worked out with Yelich over the winter and has stayed in playing shape, but hasn’t picked up a baseball or a bat since his 2020 season -- and perhaps his playing career -- abruptly ended with a rib-cage injury in the Brewers’ season-ending loss to the Dodgers in the National League Wild Card Series.

“Look, I’m strongly leaning in the direction of being done as an active player. But I think you can always push that decision back,” Braun said. “I’m still young enough, still working out, still in shape. If something were to change, I might as well leave that door open as long as possible.

“I’m not hiding anything from you guys. If I get to the point where I have made the decision, I’ll let everybody know. But as I’ve said, I feel like you can always push that decision back. You don’t want to rush into it too soon and feel like you made the decision when you weren’t fully ready.”

That parallels what Braun told in the run-up to Spring Training, that he was happy at home for now with wife Larisa and the couple’s three children -- including a son who was born last May while the sport was paused because of the coronavirus pandemic. Braun is curious, he said, to experience whether his outlook changes once regular season baseball is on TV.

He caught up with former Brewers teammate and manager Craig Counsell on Monday -- “from an appropriate distance,” Counsell said.

“I think he misses the friendships, for sure,” Counsell said. “But he’s busy raising a great young family. There’s a reason to be content with that.”

Braun said he did field interest from other clubs over the winter, but apparently none of those opportunities interested him enough to pick up a bat. If he continues his playing career, it sounds like Brewers or bust.

“I can't foresee a scenario in which I play for any other Major League team,” he said.

Braun’s reluctance to return for a 15th season with the Brewers might surprise some fans who cannot envision him going out without a proper farewell in a crowded ballpark. 

"I mean, certainly last year would not be the way that anybody would dream of their last baseball season going, potentially,” Braun said. “But I also look back and I'm grateful that we played it all because I think if there was no baseball season I would have felt obligated to play another year, which takes me away from my children for another year, which is just not something that would have been ideal.

"So, I guess, I look back with gratitude because there was so much that went into even attempting to play a season last year. I'm grateful for everybody that put forth the effort to allow there to be a season at all. That's kind of my perspective on it."

Piña in collision; Wahl injured
A spate of injury scares continued for Milwaukee when catcher , back from missing much of last season with a right knee injury that required surgery, was involved in a collision at home plate in the first inning against the Padres.

Piña absorbed a hard slide from Tommy Pham. Although Piña finished the inning, he was removed in the top of the second as a precaution after reporting left shoulder discomfort.

“He wanted to stay in but with the left shoulder and swinging a bat, there was no reason to leave him out there,” Counsell said. “He’s going to be fine.”

More troubling is right-hander , who also left the game after suffering a right oblique strain while pitching the fifth inning. After missing 2019 following surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee, and spending most of the '20 season at the alternate training site, Wahl came to camp as one of the relievers expected to help the Brewers cover the jump from a 60-game regular season schedule in '20 to 162 games in ’21.

Wahl will undergo tests to determine the extent of his injury.

Those issues continued a busy couple of days in the athletic training room. Since Saturday, was struck on the left hand by a line drive, exited a start with a sore right thumb and outfield candidate was felled by a strained left hamstring.

Last call
• If all goes to plan, outfielder will make his Cactus League debut on Saturday night, Counsell said, at which point the Brewers will have 11 games remaining on their exhibition schedule. Is that enough time to get Cain ready by Opening Day after he elected not to play the bulk of the shortened 2020 season?

“The way we’re doing it, the answer is yes,” Counsell said.

• A crew of seven removed the 20-piece tarp covering the 2.3-acre playing surface at American Family Field on Monday morning to reveal the green grass that’s been dormant throughout the winter. The grounds crew will spend the next 15 days prepping the playing surface for the Brewers’ April 1 Opening Day game against the Twins.