MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' middle-of-the-order hitters will probably get a rude reception when the team plays its first 2012 road game at Wrigley Field on Monday night.Three-hole hitter Ryan Braun is playing his first regular season away game since successfully appealing a suspension over the winter. Cleanup man Aramis Ramirez is returning as an enemy after parts of nine seasons with the Cubs. Ramirez said he isn't sure what kind of reception he'll get. But he has a hunch about Braun. "I think it's going to be ugly for Braun everywhere we go," Ramirez said. "On the road, it's going to be tough for him. He knows it. That's no secret. Plus, he got a taste of it in Spring Training. Everywhere we go, he was getting booed. "But that's a good player, and he's tough. He's tough mentally, and I think he's going to be OK. He's a good enough player to separate that from his game." Braun went 4-for-12 in the Brewers' opening series against St. Louis, including his first home run in the ninth inning of Sunday's series finale. He was asked about going on the road. "It's not me going on the road," Braun said. "It's us going on the road." Wrigley Field has never been very friendly to him, anyway. "I don't think I've ever been there and had them applaud me," Braun said. "So I don't expect anything different." As for how Cubs fans will greet Ramirez's return? "I don't know. That's a good question," Ramirez said. "I had a great career there. I played for some good teams and also played for some bad teams. I guess you have to ask the fans." He had a similar experience in September 2003, when Ramirez returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since a midseason trade from the Pirates to the Cubs. Ramirez went 5-for-13 in that four-game series, with three home runs and six RBIs. He homered twice in the series finale, a 4-1 Cubs win. "They booed me," Ramirez said of Pirates fans. "I don't know why. I didn't ask to be traded." Likewise, Ramirez said, he did not ask to leave Chicago after batting .294 with 239 home runs and 806 RBIs in 1,124 games. He was a free agent, and the Cubs' new president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, informed agent Paul Kinzer early in the process that Ramirez did not fit the franchise's plan. "Theo was honest," Ramirez said. "He told my agent they were going young, so there was no place for me there. I'm 33." If Cubs fans do boo him this week, Ramirez said, "I want to know the reason why. What did I do? But [Cubs] fans, they go to the park and they do whatever they want." Manager Ron Roenicke was asked whether he worried about Ramirez trying to do too much in his return to Wrigley Field. "I think sometimes it goes both ways," Roenicke said. "Sometimes a guy comes back and does great, and then there's the player who comes back and tries so hard to do well that he gets out of his game. It's hard to say which way Aramis will go. He's calm, he's always thinking, but there's still emotion under that calm. Going back to a place he was for that many years, there's going to be emotion there." Ramirez still has a home in downtown Chicago, but it's for sale, so he will stay with the Brewers at the team hotel.
Easter Sunday has special meaning for Sveum
CHICAGO -- On Sunday, some of the Cubs players' children were looking for Easter eggs in the outfield grass. For Cubs manager Dale Sveum, Easter Sunday has a special meaning.
Twenty-five years ago on Easter Sunday, Sveum hit a walk-off homer at County Stadium to give the Brewers a 6-4 win over Rangers for their 12th straight win to start the season. That was on April 19, 1987, so technically, the official anniversary will be in 11 days.
"I actually forgot all about it until I got a few texts from the clubbies in Milwaukee reminding me," Sveum said Sunday.
In past years, the Brewers have included Sveum's homer, which he hit off Greg Harris, as part of Easter Sunday video highlights shown pregame at Miller Park. By the way, Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief in that game, played at County Stadium in front of 29,357.
The Brewers trailed 4-1 going into the ninth inning 25 years ago. Milwaukee had two on and one out when Rob Deer hit a three-run homer to tie the game. One out later, Jim Gantner walked and Sveum then connected on the walk-off blast.
Sveum has fond memories of old County Stadium.
"There were a lot of good times," he said. "That's where you grow up as a player. That's the one thing you remember, is the good times. That's the one place I got to play every day, too. Wherever you come up in the big leagues, that will always be a special place, even though there were some pretty cold days, like we know here [at Wrigley Field]. It was the same thing at County Stadium, with the wind blowing off the lake."
Brewers confident in back end of bullpen
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers starter Zack Greinke was sensational over seven scoreless innings on Saturday, and wondered aloud whether it might he difficult this season to pitch much deeper into games.Greinke was not exactly complaining. "It's almost tough. The late end of our bullpen is so good," Greinke said. "It's hard to get past that seventh inning because you want to bring in Frankie [Rodriguez] and [closer John Axford]." Greinke was out after 91 pitches on Saturday. Rodriguez pitched the eighth inning, and Axford would have had the ninth had the Brewers not extended their lead to 6-0. Newcomer Jose Veras pitched instead. "I understand what he's saying," manager Ron Roenicke said of Greinke, "and our point of view is, if we get past the seventh inning, we feel very good about winning that ballgame, with Frankie coming in and then 'Ax'. "But I would say, if we were into the middle of the season, we would have let Zack go another inning, and then we would have seen what happened that inning to see if he goes farther. I think he'll have his chances." Roenicke, though, will err on the side of pitch-count caution as long as his bullpen stays solid. He pointed to Yovani Gallardo's 111-pitch, complete-game effort in his second 2011 start, which was followed by a five-game stretch in which opponents hit .389 against the right-hander. Was the slump directly attributable to that one deep outing? It's unclear. "But I want these guys strong for September and October," Roenicke said. "With our bullpen, I don't know why we would push a guy."
Many fans noticed that Francisco Rodriguez pitched the eighth inning on Saturday without his trademark goggles. He explained that his prescription seems to have changed from last season, and Rodriguez is pitching in contact lenses until his new goggles arrive."It's temporary," he said. Monday's series opener at Wrigley Field was moved one hour earlier, to 6:05 p.m. CT, to accommodate an ESPN broadcast. Tuesday's game is still scheduled for 7:05 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday are both 1:20 p.m. games.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.