PHOENIX (AP) — If his spring training debut was any indication, earplugs might come in handy for Ryan Braun this season.
The reigning NL MVP was heckled while striking out in his only two at-bats in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 1-all tie with a split squad of the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.
It was Braun’s first game since getting caught up in a drug case during the offseason. He recently won his appeal, overturning a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test.
Article continues below ...
The game was at Milwaukee’s Maryvale Baseball Park, and Brewers fans gave Braun a standing ovation when he came to bat.
But about half of the 6,619 fans cheered for the Giants and greeted Braun with catcalls. They serenaded the Brewers slugger with chants of “Ur-ine Sam-ple!” before Braun struck out swinging against Madison Bumgarner in his first at-bat. His second time up, Braun was greeted with chants of “Cheater!” before looking at strike three.
Braun was getting the kind of treatment Barry Bonds used to draw toward the end of his career — and from the very fans who were the only ones who didn’t deride the Giants superstar who was long suspected of using steroids.
Braun said he was glad the games are finally here.
“Yeah, it was great. I think for all of us as a team, you look forward to games starting. It’s a little more adrenaline, little more excitement and enthusiasm. So it was fun,” he said.
The Brewers got a double dose of bad news before the game when Rickie Weeks (tight right shoulder) and right fielder Corey Hart (right knee) were late scratches. An MRI exam revealed Hart has a torn meniscus and needs arthroscopic surgery that will sideline him three to four weeks.
Then, Milwaukee’s biggest star got razzed at his home spring park.
Brewers starter Randy Wolf, who retired all six batters he faced, said he was oblivious to the catcalls directed at Braun, who has never really been the target of opposing fans’ wrath before.
“I honestly didn’t hear any of that,” Wolf said. “I heard more supportive cheers than anything else, to tell you the truth. Obviously, you’re going to get that more in Maryvale where a lot of people got away from the cold of Milwaukee and came here to enjoy the nice weather.”
Bumgarner didn’t pay any attention to Braun’s hecklers, either.
“No, I mean we’ve got too much to focus on without trying to listen to what the fans are saying,” Bumgarner said. “When you’re facing a lineup like that, you’ve got to be locked in on what you’re doing. I’m not worried about that, he’s one of the best players in the game.”
Union head Michael Weiner was at the stadium Sunday as part of his annual tour of teams at spring training and he told reporters that he’s getting questions from players all over about Braun’s case and baseball’s drug program.
He said he was unsure whether Major League Baseball and the union would need to make changes in the drug program until both sides get the arbitrator’s opinion on the case later this month.
Braun’s legal team argued in a grievance hearing that the drug collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., did not follow the procedures specified in baseball’s drug agreement.
Weiner said it was unfortunate that Braun’s case was leaked to the public along with the collector’s identity.
Braun is without fellow slugger Prince Fielder for the first time this year and he might have to start the season without Hart, who’s homered 57 times over the last two seasons.
“You feel for him,” Braun said. “He always been one of my best friends. He’s a great player. He certainly helps our team a lot. So, from that perspective, it’s disappointing. Obviously, as a team, we’re better off if we have him.”
Braun took solace in the Brewers’ deep outfield that includes Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki backing up Brawn, Hart and Nyjer Morgan.
“We do have the luxury of having some depth,” Braun said. “Our fourth and fifth outfielders are as good as anybody in baseball. It’s never something you want to see happen, but we have the depth to be able to hold down the fort until he comes back.”
Gomez replaced Hart and drove in Milwaukee’s run with a single in the third off Bumgarner, the only hit he allowed in 2 2-3 innings.
“I know that’s a bad thing to say, but I get used to having injuries and having to deal with how you move on and how you get through those times,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said
Brandon Crawford had two hits and drove in San Francisco’s run with an RBI single in the fifth.