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07/29/08 8:57 PM ET
Branyan doing best to cope with role
Third baseman in lineup following Monday's clutch homer
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ned Yost has not said much to the media about Bill Hall's beefed-up role at third base. He has not said much to Russell Branyan, either. "My expectations are out the window," said Branyan, who was happy to get a Minor League shot with the Brewers in Spring Training. "I'm starting tonight, and I'm happy about that." A day after he hit a game-tying, pinch-hit home run in an eventual loss to the Cubs, Branyan started at third base on Tuesday against All-Star right-hander Carlos Zambrano. It was his first start since the finale of a three-game series in San Francisco on July 20, after which Hall's hot streak prompted Brewers manager Ned Yost to tentatively reinstall him as the regular starter. With Zambrano slated to pitch, Branyan had a feeling that he might start on Tuesday. "Still, I took a took a deep breath today before I opened up the [clubhouse] door," he said. Branyan has cooled since his late-May arrival helped spark the Brewers' offense. After he homered against the Twins on June 27, Branyan was hitting .300 with 11 home runs. From that date through Sunday, he was hitting .150 with no home runs and a lone RBI. He put a charge into a sellout crowd on Monday with a seventh-inning solo home run that tied the game at 4. "It was very fun for me to hit that home run to tie that ballgame," Branyan said. "As a team, we tried to feed off it. We just got left short." Branyan will not complain about his recently-reduced role. "It's tough, but there's no sympathy," Branyan said. "You still have to go out and perform, because you're expected to. It's a tough job to play off the bench because when you're not playing well, it's hard to get things going again." He has been asking for advice from players and coaches from other teams with whom he has a good relationship. They seem to offer a common answer: Work harder. "A lot of it is mind-set to begin with, in my estimation," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "Yeah, it's tough, but these are world-class athletes that prepare themselves every day to get in those situations and be successful. The tough part is that it's such a difficult game. When you get up there and get one at-bat, it's very, very difficult. You can't let that affect your play."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.