PHOENIX -- It’s been 10 days since Ryan Braun arrived at the Milwaukee Brewers’ spring training camp, pronounced himself remorseful for his past transgressions and vowed to move forward with the business of playing baseball at an elite level.
Consider him immersed in the task at hand.
With a walk, a gap double and a line single up the middle against the Chicago Cubs on Monday, Braun has reached base six times in seven Cactus League plate appearances and is hitting .800 in three games.
Of greater importance to the Brewers, he’s also making positive strides at his new position. Braun is moving from left field to right field this season to make room for Khris Davis, who hit .288 during the 65 games that Braun sat out in 2013 after being suspended in MLB’s Biogenesis investigation.
"I’m trying to squeeze a whole semester’s worth of work into one month," Braun said.
Braun grew up playing shortstop in California and was drafted as a third baseman out of Miami before moving to left field in his second big league season, so he’s accustomed to seeing the ball come off the bat from the left side of the field. That’s only one of the challenges the shift to right presents.
Among the other items on Braun’s agenda: being prepared to back up on bunt plays and pickoffs from the pitcher and catcher; learning to read the slice of the ball off the bat from a new vantage point; getting acquainted with the various sun fields around the majors; and honing his instincts on when to eat the ball and when to come up throwing. Braun is working with coaches John Shelby and Ed Sedar in camp and seeks out his fellow outfielders for tips on the fine art of right-field play.
As most people who've interacted with Braun will attest, lack of confidence has never been a problem. He occasionally lobbies Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke to play shortstop and is convinced he could do a serviceable job at the position if he ever committed to it full time.
Right now, Braun is busy enough learning right field, and the Brewers think he can handle the load. Braun caught three fly balls in the same inning in a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday -- "I tied a major legue record," he said -- and looked at ease ranging into the gap to make a catch against the Chicago Cubs on Monday.
"I’m heading in the right direction," Braun said. "Wherever I was last week, I’m better this week. And the more balls I see off the bat, the more comfortable I’ll be."