Braun stands by friend, mentor A-Rod
Outfielder not interested in judging Yankees third baseman
PHOENIX -- Hours before Alex Rodriguez was to face a media throng in Tampa, Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was standing by his friend from more than 2,000 miles away.While expressing regret for what he called Rodriguez's "mistakes," Braun refused to denounce the fallen Yankees star. "Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm not the type of person that's going to change my opinion about who he is just because he made a mistake," Braun said. "I wouldn't just disassociate myself with somebody just because he made a mistake. I don't think anybody is perfect, and I don't think he's ever pretended to be perfect."
Braun first met Rodriguez on a recruiting trip to the University of Miami in 2001, the same year that Rodriguez, according to his first interview on the subject, began taking banned substances. The story that Rodriguez allegedly tested positive for steroids broke via SI.com on Feb. 7, but New York reporters did not get their first opportunity to grill Rodriguez on the subject until Tuesday.Because Brewers hitters took the field at 11:30 a.m. MT for batting and fielding work, just as Rodriguez stepped behind the microphone, Braun would have to wait to see the exchange in replay. "It doesn't do me much good to say anything bad about anybody," Braun said earlier in the morning. "It will be interesting to see what he has to say. I will say that I think he's done everything that he should have done [since the story broke] and the best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth." Was he surprised by events of the past two weeks? "I don't know if I would say I was surprised," Braun said. "I feel like it was so rampant, so prevalent in baseball during that time period that not much surprises me anymore. If anything, I was surprised he got caught, that it came out this long after he supposedly did it." Rodriguez shifted from shortstop to third base when he was traded from the Rangers to the Yankees prior to the 2004 season and helped Braun make a similar move. Braun, who moved to left field before the start of the 2008 season, still occasionally runs into Rodriguez. Braun said he has never been tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs. He attended Miami from 2002-2005 and said NCAA drug testing was extensive, and entered professional baseball following the 2005 Draft amid stringent testing by Minor League Baseball. "It's never something that I sought," Braun said before showing a flash of his sense of humor and his well-documented self-confidence. "I would never do it because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs." Other Brewers chose to stay away from the topic of Rodriguez including pitcher Chase Wright, who was traded from the Yankees to the Brewers earlier this month. He didn't regret missing Tuesday's media circus at New York's Spring Training camp. "I'd rather watch it on television," said Wright, who played briefly in the big leagues with Rodriguez in 2007 but didn't get to know the slugger. Brewers right-hander Dave Bush, the team's representative to the Players Association, also took a pass on the topic. Asked if he wanted to discuss Rodriguez, Bush responded with a smile, "No." "What other guys do, that doesn't affect me," said Bush, who used to pitch for the Blue Jays and has held Rodriguez to 2-for-10 in his career (one of those hits was a solo home run). "I'm working with what I've got, and I'm going to go as far as that takes me. Other players will do what they want."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.