Ryan Braun is reportedly having issues with his right thumb again. According to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, this is the same problem (numbness in the thumb that affects his grip and in turn leads to blisters) that led to the first DL stint of his career in 2013. Braun missed a month but returned to play in just a handful of games prior to being suspended for the remainder of the season. Consequently, the thumb was never truly tested after the time spent on the DL.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Braun and the medical staff were trying different tactics this spring to prevent a recurrence, such as padding on the bat or in his batting glove. It can be extremely difficult to find something which protects a thumb or finger but still allows the hitter to feel like he has a “normal” grip. Too much padding and he becomes less effective at the plate, too little and the problem persists. Now Braun is apparently dealing with challenges when throwing the ball, in addition to his discomfort when swinging the bat. Given that there are no guaranteed outcomes with surgery, it appears that Braun and the Brewers are going to attempt to manage the problem conservatively at this point, which begins with Braun at DH as the Brewers open a weekend series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The question will be how long the management approach can be effective, because clearly the problem is not resolving.