MILWAUKEE -- You don't see this every day: Brewers slugger Ryan Braun on the field nearly four hours before the first pitch, clad in shorts and a T-shirt for early batting practice. It's the latest unusual step in an effort to shake Braun out of a rare batting slump."I think it's the second time every in my career," said Braun. He meant the second time since his rookie season. Rookies are generally expected to take early batting practice, which is mostly an exercise to help bench players get the swings they are not getting in games. For Braun, the appearance was an exercise in shaking a slump. From Aug. 1 through Tuesday, when Braun went 0-for-5, including a game-ending flyout with the tying run on base, he was 9-for-47 (.191) with no home runs -- and, just as notably, no walks -- in 49 plate appearances. On Wednesday, Braun took a day off. On Thursday, he went back to work in early batting practice, a break from his usual pregame routine. It paid off in the first inning, as he connected on his 30th home run, a solo shot to right field off Phillies lefty Cliff Lee. In the fourth, Braun drilled another solo shot off Lee. "I'm big on my routine. I've always said you don't have control over results, focus on process, that type of thing, so I don't like to break my routine too often," Braun said. "But every once in a while, when things aren't going well, it makes sense to come out and take a little early BP. ... "I'm always quality over quantity. I don't like doing too much. Plus, so can only focus on baseball for so long and keep up the intensity and focus that makes it worthwhile. You can take a million swings, but if you're not doing them correctly, you're building bad muscle memory. So I've just never been a fan of quantity over quality." So, will Thursday's extra swings make a difference? "I feel good. BP is not the problem," Braun said. "I'm hitting 1.000 in BP. I'm dominating batting practice every day. It's a challenging game. You guys have heard me say it time and time again. Albert Pujols is the greatest hitter of our generation, arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of all time, and for the first five weeks, he hit under .200 with no home runs. Look at Josh Hamilton; he was as good as anybody ever for the first two months of the season, and then for two months, hit under .200. "It's a really challenging game. you try to keep your sanity when you're going bad, you try to figure out what's going on. But I think guys sometimes get themselves in trouble when they try to make too many changes. When you have a track record, you believe in what you do. I've proven to myself that what I do works, [so] that when I'm not going good, I don't want to make drastic changes. I don't need to make drastic changes." He is making some subtle adjustments at the plate, with the aim of better plate discipline. And Braun said again that he is healthy, having moved past the groin issue and deep blisters on his hand that dogged him earlier.
Marcum slated for bullpen session on Friday
MILWAUKEE -- One day after making his second rehab start for Class A Wisconsin, Shaun Marcum was back in a Brewers uniform on Thursday taking batting practice at Miller Park with the rest of the starting pitchers.Although that might seem like a surefire sign Marcum and his right elbow are due back in the rotation soon, manager Ron Roenicke said that's a decision that has yet to be made. Roenicke said the 30-year-old right-hander is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday, and that will determine whether his next start is a return to the Brewers or a third rehab appearance. "I said, 'It's nice to have you back,'" Roenicke said after seeing Marcum at Miller Park on Thursday. "'But I think it's important for you and for us when you come back that you feel like you're going to spot every ball you want to.' So that's where the bullpen [session] comes in. Not necessarily how his arm feels. It's more on, 'OK, am I ready to do this at the big league level?'" Marcum told Roenicke his elbow felt fine after tossing 3 2/3 innings for the Timber Rattlers on Wednesday. However, he did not feel as sharp as he'd like, especially in the fourth inning, when he allowed a double and a single to score a run. He then gave up another single and walked two batters before leaving the game with the bases loaded. Should Marcum forgo another rehab start, he would be limited to about 75 pitches in his return to the Milwaukee rotation. Roenicke didn't confirm what the plan is when Marcum does come back, but he again mentioned the possibility of at least a temporary six-man rotation.
Despite tough losses, Brewers bounce back
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers lead the Major Leagues in heartbreak, but manager Ron Roenicke insisted Thursday that nobody was giving up.According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Brewers entered Thursday leading the Majors with 26 one-run losses, 23 losses decided in an opponents' last at-bat and 23 blown saves. They were tied with the Phillies with 10 walk-off losses. Three of those walk-offs came on the just-completed road trip, a dismal 1-5 swing through Houston and Denver. "Unfortunately, we've been through this a lot," Roenicke said. "The more times you have things happen to you, the easier it is to understand how to get out of it, to understand how to bounce back and just play the next day hard. No matter how bad the loss was that we've had, that next day, we always come back and play pretty well. We may lose it again late, but we've really bounced back to play a good game." Asked how long that attitude can hold up, Roenicke said, "I don't know." Asked whether the losses become demoralizing at some point, he said, "I don't see that happening with this group." "If it was going to happen, it would have already happened," he said. "The Phillies series before [three straight blown leads from July 23-25] would have crushed us."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.