Posted on May 26, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Less than a week after returning from an injury, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is heading right back to the DL with the same injury. Braun re-aggravated the calf injury that forced him to the DL earlier this month during Thursday’s loss to the Diamondbacks. Braun was only activated on Sunday and was hitless in nine at-bats before being pulled from Thursday’s game because of tightness in the calf.
“It’s the calf again, and he’s most likely headed to the DL again,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after Thursday’s loss.
Braun appeared to re-aggravate the injury while tracking down a fly ball in the 3rd inning. He was pinch-hit for in the 4th inning.
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“Same calf, same situation,” Braun said afterward. “I knew when I came back that I wasn’t at 100 percent, but it was good enough that I was optimistic I’d be able to work through it. It just kind of grabbed on me when I ran to catch that pop-up.”
Braun will need to undergo an MRI on his injured calf before the Brewers have a timetable for his return. However, the fact that he rushed back before the original injury had a chance to fully heal could lead to an extended absence this time around, especially with Braun now being 33 years old.
“We’re going to have to start over with it,” Counsell said of Braun’s injury.
Prior to his first calf injury, Braun had been one of Milwaukee’s most impactful offensive players. Alongside Eric Thames and Travis Shaw, Braun played a big role in the Brewers remaining competitive early in the season. But Braun is confident that his teammates will be able to pick him up while he’s out of the lineup.
“The reason we’ve had success is because we’ve had a lot of guys contributing,” Braun said Thursday. “We’re not dependent on one or two guys. Up and down our batting order, everybody is contributing. There are a lot of guys in the bullpen throwing the ball well. All of our starters are keeping us in games. Hopefully, we win the next one and that turns things back around.”
When Braun was on the DL the first time around, a combination of Hernan Perez, Eric Sogard, and Nick Franklin helped fill the void in left field. Sogard is hitting .423 with five extra-base hits in just 26 at-bats this year, so the Brewers may look to ride him until he cools down. Perez has also been productive for the Brewers in a part-time role this season, so Milwaukee does have viable fill-ins for Braun.
If Braun requires an extended stay on the DL, the Brewers haven’t ruled out the possibility of calling up top prospect Lewis Brinson. MLB.com ranks Brinson, who was acquired in a trade with the Rangers last summer, as the 15th best prospect in all of baseball. In triple-A this season, Brinson is hitting .306 with a .876 OPS, although he’s played primarily center field so either he or Keon Broxton would have to shift over to left field if he’s called up.
On the surface, the Brewers do have plenty of options to help fill the void left by Braun’s absence. However, the loss of their veteran slugger puts Milwaukee’s season at a bit of a crossroads. The Brewers have lost four in a row and lost possession of first place in the NL Central. Despite having several possible replacements for Braun, the team may not be in a position to cope with a long-term absence, giving the Brewers a strong dose of adversity as Braun heads back to the DL.