Updates from Sunday, April 6
The Brewers confirm Ryan Braun will return to action today:
Updates from Saturday, April 5
MLB.com's Adam McCalvy has the latest on Braun:
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is dealing with renewed problems involving his previously injured right thumb. It's not expected to cause an extended absence at this point, but that could change if he eventually decides to undergo surgery.
Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports Braun loses feeling in the thumb due to a nerve issue, which leads to problems when it comes to his grip and causes further injury:
Short version: Thumb is numb because of a nerve problem. So he can't tell how hard he's gripping the ball & has developed bad blisters.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) April 4, 2014
McCalvy also laid out the limited options currently on the table for the 2011 National League MVP, who hopes to avoid surgery:
Braun's options: Figure a way to manage it, or surgery. Doesn't want to even talk about the latter option yet. More to come on the site.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) April 4, 2014
Braun talked about his injury to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Though it has been described as as thumb injury, the actual issue is an inflamed nerve in the webbing between his right thumb and index finger that runs up the base of the thumb. Braun has tried different forms of padding over his batting glove but because his thumb is numb, he got blisters on it from gripping the bat too tightly and not realizing it.
"It's the same thing," said Braun, who was robbed of his power by the issue last year before finally being suspended for the final 65 games for PED use. "The nerve is messed up so my whole thumb is numb, so I can't feel gripping the ball or the bat. So I gripped it too hard and I have crazy bruises and blisters."
Asked if there was any chance it would improve, Braun said, "It is what it is. I hope (it doesn't last all year). I'm optimistic that eventually we'll figure something out. You know how it is. Everybody deals with different things. I know what the alternative is and I'm not ready to consider anything like that."
The alternative is surgery and Braun said there is no guarantee the surgery would remedy the condition. He said Boston's Shane Victorino had a similar procedure without great results. Thus, he's not ready to take that step.
"It's the nerve that runs (up the base of the thumb). It got better but it never went away. I had the luxury of five months off. I'll never have that luxury again. If that didn't make it go away, I don't know what will."
Braun is off to a very slow start to the 2014 campaign with just one hit, a single, in 11 at bats. The recurring thumb problem could help explain that lack of early success, although three games isn't a big enough sample size to draw any definitive conclusions.
Can the Brewers contend in the NL Central without a healthy Braun?
Losing him for any type of lengthy period due to the injury would obviously be a major setback for the Brewers. The 30-year-old left fielder is a career .312 hitter and hit at least 25 home runs in his first six seasons in the league.
For now, it sounds like he will attempt to play through the ailment and hope he can find a comfort zone so he stays in the lineup. If the lack of production continues and the thumb doesn't show any signs of improvement, the plan of attack could change.
After losing two out of three games to the Atlanta Braves to open the season, Milwaukee is set to face off with the reigning champion Boston Red Sox in the second series. The team sent along a picture of him taking batting practice at Fenway Park shortly after news of the thumb issues broke:
It's a situation the Brewers and their fans will monitor closely in the coming weeks. At least for the time being, Braun will play on.