A day before Thanksgiving, Ryan Braun attempted to wipe his slate clean.
The Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun opened up to the media regarding his past use of performance-enhancing drugs and his subsequent cover-up, actions that resulted in a 65-game suspension last season from Major League Baseball.
Braun spoke to reporters after taking food donations near Miller Park and again offered an apology for his actions.
"I'm deeply remorseful about what happened," he said. "I wish I had the ability to go back and change things and do things a lot differently, but unfortunately I can't do that.
"All I can do is move on and try to do everything in my power to earn back peoples' trust and respect and support. I don't anticipate being able to earn back everybody's support, but I certainly intend to do everything in my power to do that and I won't stop trying."
Braun plans to return for the 2014 season and thinks he will be able to play at the same level that won him the National League MVP award in 2011.
"Yeah, I think I will be better," he said. "I should be better."
Braun was mostly evasive while fielding questions from reporters, repeatedly saying he would not go into specifics. He addressed a number of topics.
On contacting commissioner Bud Selig: "I did. I wrote Bud a letter. But other than that, I'm not really going to get into too many specifics."
On the news conference in 2012 when he professed his innocence after a positive drug test that he appealed and won: "I'm not really, again, going to get into too many specifics. I wish that I hadn't done the press conference. It was a big mistake. I deeply regret having done it, and a lot of the things that I said that day. But again, all I can do is move forward, and in an effort to do that I'm not going to get into too many specifics. I really don't think that it does anything too positive or productive for me, the team, the game of baseball or anybody else. And in an effort to move forward, I'm not going to discuss that subject."
On fans' reaction when he returns next season: "Everywhere I've been, people have been incredibly supportive and I've been incredibly appreciative of that. I don't really know what to expect, but everybody has been extremely supportive and I really appreciate that."
On waiting to speak in public after he was suspended during the 2013 season: "I think because it was an ongoing investigation I wasn't allowed to say very much at that time. Basically based on what I had learned from both Major League Baseball and the Players Association, it wasn't in anybody's best interest for me to make any statements at that time."
On whether he has apologized to test administrator/specimen collector Dino Laurenzi, Jr., or made any payments to him for initially throwing him under the bus publicly: "I have not made any payments to him. I've had some really productive and positive conversations with him. The Laurenzi family was actually gracious and kind enough to have my fiancee Larisa and I over to their house for dinner last night, and we had some really good conversation. We've made amends and I think we're both excited to be able to move forward and put this behind us. ... I'm not going to get into too many details other than to say it was an incredible experience. It was extremely kind and gracious of them. They're really special people and I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to go to their house and have a conversation in person. I wish that I could change it. I wish that I hadn't said anything about him. I wish I knew more at the time I said what I said. But he was really a special person and his family was a special group of people."
On his reputation: "I don't think about those things, I really don't. I'm getting married here soon. My focus is on that and doing everything that I can to come back next year to be the best player I can be."
2013: 74-88, fourth place in NL Central
TEAM MVP: In his first full season in the majors, Jean Segura gave the Brewers something they desperately needed -- an everyday shortstop they could count on. Segura was an offensive dynamo, batting close to .300 with 20 doubles, 10 triples, 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases. Even better, he played very well in the field, often making sensational plays while showing superior range and a strong throwing arm. Segura won't be 24 until March, so the Brewers feel very good about shortstop for years to come.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Ryan Braun fills this bill on two different fronts. First, he was rendered ineffective offensively for long stretches due to a thumb injury that robbed him of his power. Then, MLB's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic uncovered evidence that Braun had purchased PEDs there and he accepted a season-ending 65-game suspension. Braun is signed through 2020 at more than $130 million, so how this plays out is anyone's guess. But the damage he has done to the organization is considerable.
TOP PROSPECT: Right-hander Johnny Hellweg was the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year but struggled greatly with the Brewers (1-4, 6.75 in eight games). Scooter Gennett lost his rookie status by starting at second base for most of the final two months after Rickie Weeks was injured but still has to be considered the organization's top prospect for the way he performed. Gennett was so successful, both offensively and defensively, it is hard to see how the Brewers would not commit to him in 2014.
--RHP Burke Badenhop was dealt from the Brewers to the Red Sox on Nov. 22 in exchange for minor league LHP Luis Ortega. Badenhop, 30, went 2-3 with one save and a 3.47 ERA in 63 appearances for Milwaukee this year. He had previous major league stints with the Marlins and Rays. Badenhop will be eligible for arbitration this winter after making $1.55 million in 2013.
"I couldn't be more blessed," Badenhop told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I enjoyed playing in Milwaukee but I understand the situation. This is an awesome opportunity for me."
Ortega, 20, went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 12 games (one start) for the Red Sox's rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate this year.
--UT Elian Herrera was claimed off waivers by the Brewers from the Dodgers on Nov. 4. Herrera, 28, went 2-for-8 in eight games with Los Angeles this year.
--RF Norichika Aoki will be back in Milwaukee next year, as the Brewers picked up the $2 million option on his contract. The leadoff hitter batted .286 with a .356 on-base percentage, a .370 slugging percentage, eight homers, 37 RBIs and 20 stolen bases this year. Over two seasons in Milwaukee, the 31-year-old has a .287 average and 50 steals.
--RHP Jesus Sanchez, RHP Josh Ravin and RHP Santo Manzanillo were outrighted to Triple-A Nashville to clear space on the Brewers' 40-man roster. Sanchez, 26, went 4-3 with seven saves and a 2.83 ERA in 48 relief appearances for Nashville this year. Ravin, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Reds after going a combined 1-3 with a 5.82 ERA over 48 games in Double-A and Triple-A this year. Manzanillo, 24, finished the season 1-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 46 appearances for Double-A Huntsville and Class A Brevard County.
--INF Taylor Green, who missed the entire year following left hip surgery, was outrighted to Triple-A Nashville. He is not expected to have any restrictions in the spring.
--OF Josh Prince and RHP Nick Bucci were outrighted to Triple-A Nashville as the Brewers cleared spots on their 40-man roster. Prince, 25, went 1-for-3 in eight games with Milwaukee this year. He spent most of the season with Nashville. Bucci, 23, was limited to one minor league game all season due to shoulder problems.
--1B Mat Gamel, who missed all of the 2013 season and nearly all of 2012 due to knee injuries, was claimed off waivers by the Cubs from the Brewers on Oct. 3. Gamel, 28, tore his right anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in less than a year at the outset of spring training. In parts of five seasons with Milwaukee, Gamel hit .229/.306/.367 with six homers and 29 RBIs in 106 games.
--3B Aramis Ramirez had a miserable year with his left knee after spraining it in spring training. He had two separate one-month stints on the disabled list and was unable to start during the final series of the season after tweaking the knee again. But Ramirez has one more year on his three-year deal and said he will spend the entire winter rehabbing the knee with an eye on staying injury-free in 2014.
--SS Jean Segura will not play winter ball even if an agreement is reached with MLB for the Caribbean teams to play. The Brewers want Segura to rest after playing winter ball last year (he won the Dominican Winter League batting crown) and then his first full season in the majors. He's young (23) but they don't want him to wear down after falling off in the second half. He missed 10 of the last 11 games with a hamstring strain and the club wants him to get plenty of rest.
--RHP Yovani Gallardo struggled with his command throughout the first half of the season before pulling it together at the end. By stepping up his rhythm and tweaking his mechanics, he went 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA over his final eight starts. Thus, instead of being a question mark coming to camp next spring, Gallardo feels he's back on track and so do the Brewers.
--RHP Jim Henderson staked his claim to the closer's role with the way he performed when given the chance to finish games. With both Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford traded during the season, Henderson showed he deserved to be the closer in 2014 by converting 28 of 32 save opportunities, including 18 of his last 19.
--RHP Marco Estrada put on a strong finishing kick to show he should be in the starting rotation in 2014. He allowed two hits and one run over seven innings in the season finale in New York and compiled a 2.15 ERA over nine starts after returning from a prolonged stint on the disabled list (strained hamstring). "I hope I showed them enough," he said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a tough season. The coaches stayed positive. The biggest thing is to stay positive through all this stuff. Injuries are hard. It's easy to get down as a player when you're looking at one of your main guys going down." -- Manager Ron Roenicke, after it was announced the entire coaching staff would return in 2014.
Because injuries played such a big role in the Brewers' demise in 2013, they do not feel an overhaul is needed despite finishing far out of the race. They do need to stay healthy, figure out what to do with the right side of their infield and fill out the starting rotation behind Kyle Lohse, Yovani Gallardo and Wily Peralta. The big wild card is how Ryan Braun bounces back from his suspension.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Brewers have to find a productive first baseman, be it from within the organization or outside. Injuries created a revolving door there in 2013 with terrible results. They also might want to pick up an established starting pitcher to help fill out the rotation, and the bullpen will need some retooling as well, mostly in the middle.
DEPARTURE: RHP Burke Badenhop (traded to Red Sox)
FREE AGENTS: 1B Corey Hart, INF Yuniesky Betancourt, LHP Michael Gonzalez
Hart expressed a desire to stay in Milwaukee but after two knee surgeries in 2013, he presents a real gamble should the Brewers commit to him at first base. They will have to be confident in his medicals to do so but have no other great option at this point. Betancourt and Gonzalez, who declined as the season progressed, likely will move on.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Marco Estrada, 1B Juan Francisco
Estrada had a strong finish to the 2013 season and is in the picture for the starting rotation next year. Francisco is a "Super 2" player who was strikeout-prone and unreliable but has power so the Brewers probably will look to keep him.
IN LIMBO: 2B Rickie Weeks, INF Taylor Green
Weeks missed the final two months with a torn hamstring and was terrible at the plate beforehand, batting .209 with a .306 on-base percentage and a .357 slugging percentage. Rookie Scooter Gennett took over and played very well, giving the indication that he was ready for the majors. After missing all of 2013, Green is uncertain of his place in the pecking order.
--2B Rickie Weeks (torn left hamstring) missed the final two months of the season and will need most of the winter to rehab the injury. The Brewers expect him to be healthy by spring training but he might have to fight for his job with young Scooter Gennett.
--1B Corey Hart (right and left knee surgeries) missed the entire year, and it couldn't have come at a worse time as he enters free agency. Whether the Brewers will attempt to sign him to an incentive-laden deal remains to be seen.
--3B Aramis Ramirez (left knee sprain) was never the same after injuring his knee in spring training. He spent two long stints on the disabled list and was hobbled again at season's end. He planned to spend much of the offseason strengthening and rehabbing the knee.
--SS Jean Segura (right hamstring strain) missed 10 of the last 11 games of the season but did play in the penultimate game to show that he was basically recovered. The Brewers figure he'll be back to full strength very soon with adequate rest.
--LHP Tom Gorzelanny (left shoulder tightness) didn't pitch after Sept. 2 and was still unavailable at the end of the season. An MRI showed no structural damage, and the Brewers think he'll be OK with adequate rest.
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