MILWAUKEE — The topic in the Milwaukee Brewers’ clubhouse was an obvious one following Monday night’s 5-3 loss to San Diego, and it had nothing to do with the game.
While the topic of conversation was obvious, players’ thoughts on the suspension of teammate Ryan Braun varied.
Braun approached manager Ron Roenicke and informed the skipper he had accepted a 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball. The five-time All-Star and former National League MVP then asked Roenicke if he could address the team.
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The mood of the close to 10-minute speech was described as “somber” by Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, while catcher Jonathan Lucroy said Braun was “depressed”.
“At the same time he felt a lot of weight come off his shoulder, come off his chest,” Lucroy said. “That’s a tough burden to bear, withholding the truth for so long.”
While most of the players want to learn more details of the suspension before saying too much, Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo was the most adamant in his defense of Braun.
When asked if he still believes Braun did not use performance-enhancing drugs, Gallardo said “Yeah, I do.”
“I still believe that,” Gallardo said. “All of us in here don’t know exactly what the investigation was or what are the details of it. I’m sure further on down the road we will find out more. It was a surprise. It was definitely a surprise.”
Gallardo has been teammates with Braun all the way through the Brewers minor-league system and the two both debuted in Milwaukee in 2007.
“I know him pretty well,” Gallardo said. “I know the kind of guy he is. Just being around him for that long — we were roommates in the minor leagues. If that doesn’t tell you enough, I don’t know what does. It’s tough for all of us but we all know what kind of guy he is.”
One of Braun’s most vocal supporters throughout the entire process, Lucroy addressed the situation in a different tone Monday.
“We’re a family in here, and we defend each other no matter what,” Lucroy said. “We see when people make mistakes. We’ve got to move on.”
Lucroy, who was one of the few players Braun personally addressed before talking to the team as a whole, said he did not expect an apology from Braun moving forward.
As far as defending Braun in the past, Lucroy chalked that up to not knowing many details of the case and said he’d still do it again.
“He was in a tough situation, obviously made some bad decisions and ended up paying for them,” Lucroy said. “We all do things we have to learn from, and we all make mistakes. Every single one of us.
“I’m happy for Braunie that he’s got it all off his chest and he can sleep at night. I’m sure he feels better about it. Everything’s out. He can move on and get over it.”
Lucroy was asked if earlier today he had thought Braun had not used performance-enhancing drugs.
“Yes, I did,” Lucroy said. “You know what, hey, I still forgive him, man. Hey, you know what? He made a mistake. A lot of people make mistakes. I’m not sitting here trying to act like I’m perfect. I’m not. Nobody in here, none of you all are perfect, so you know what? I’m going to forgive him and move on.”
Opening his post-game press conference with a statement on the suspension, Roenicke said he would address more specific questions in the coming days.
“As far as myself and the coaching staff and players are concerned, we’re certainly disappointed in the news that we received today,” Roenicke said. “The suspension obviously affects us the rest of the year and what we do and where we go. As far as the investigation and the suspension, I know everybody thinks we know what’s going on but really we know nothing. I found out today when I got to the ball park that he was going to be suspended.
“We support the decisions that Major League Baseball makes. My job is to manage this group of young men. My job is also to support them but it’s also to support Major League Baseball and its drug program. I support the player’s union and with them both getting together and coming up with this decision that it’s something we have to live with. For the organization, I think it’s important that we move on with this. There were a lot of rumors going on but I had no idea what was going to happen or when it was going to happen and I think it’s important for us, now that it has happened, to move forward with this season.”
Before moving on to questions about the game, Roenicke was asked specifically about Braun lying to him and the rest of the team and if he would have any credibility moving forward.
“For one thing, I don’t know that he lied to me about anything,” Roenicke said. “I don’t know what this is all about. All I know is the conversation that I had with him, and I don’t know Ryan lied to me about anything. I can’t answer that because I really don’t know what’s going on with the investigation. If I knew more, I would be able to answer that a little bit better.”
From Roenicke to the players, it was clear Monday night that Braun provided the clubhouse with few details of the case. Those currently with the Brewers seem to only know Braun has been suspended for the rest of the season, and that’s it.
“The biggest thing for us is to just get the truth,” Weeks said. “For us to come to the ballpark today was shocking just like everybody else. I’m at a loss for words right now to tell you the truth.
“It sucks. It’s unfortunate for him to go through something like this, but it is what it is, and you have to go through it.”
Though they are well out of contention, the Brewers now seem to have some closure from what general manager Doug Melvin called “a cloud” hanging over the franchise for nearly two years. In a few days, baseball will be the only topic of conversation until Braun returns to the team next spring.
To many of the players, moving on is something they are looking forward to.
“When things are coming out in bits and pieces like that, it kind of lingers on,” Weeks said. “Guys talk about it around the clubhouse. It does somewhat become some sort of a distraction. I think for the guys that have been here for a while, I think we handled it pretty well. To see this come out now it’s obviously shocking and quite unfortunate, but at the same time it’s good to get it over with.”
The mood in the clubhouse when Braun returns in 2014 can’t be predicted, but Lucroy doesn’t expect any issues.
“We all went up to him and said we support you anyway,” Lucroy said. “We understand it’s a tough situation. He came out. He said his piece and got done. We forgive him. I don’t think anybody here is going to hold a grudge.”