03/17/2013 8:05 PM ET
Braun, Lucroy reflect on Classic experience
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There's a dichotomy inherent in Team USA's experience in the World Baseball Classic that both Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun pointed out as they returned to Brewers camp Sunday following elimination Friday from the second round of the tournament.
On one hand, there's a national pride and an unsurpassed atmosphere.
"It was unbelievable -- I've never felt any kind of energy like that ever," Lucroy said. "It was a great experience and a great time. The energy that the Dominican crowds, the Mexican crowds, the Puerto Rican crowds had -- the only thing that rivals that is the playoffs in 2011."
For Braun, there was no luster lost in his second Classic, and he echoed his teammate about the experience of playing for his country.
"It was amazing," Braun said. "Honestly, it was one of the best baseball experiences I've ever had. It's a lot of fun, it's really special. The atmosphere far surpassed any regular-season game I've ever played in. It was just as good as any playoff game, but completely different. The energy, the atmosphere -- a lot of that has to do with the Latin fans. The horns, the drums, the energy, the passion -- all game. It doesn't stop. For our [MLB] games, people get excited when something good or bad happens. But that atmosphere was nonstop."
Mixed in with the euphoria, however, was a profound sense of disappointment for Team USA's continued failure to reach the final and, for the second time in three Classics, missing playing a semifinal game.
"Everybody played their heart out and gave everything they had," Lucroy said. "There's always unfinished business there. Obviously we've gone three times without being in the final, so you want to go back."
Lucroy said he would definitely return if invited again, despite the challenge of finding a time that works for Major League players. Noting most of the other countries play baseball year round and treat the Classic like "their World Series," Team USA's players are focused on preparing for their season. They are not up to speed in early and mid-Spring Training; an extended break during the season would be too intrusive to the majority of Major Leaguers not participating; and playing at the end of an MLB season would be a hard sell for pitchers and other players coming off a 162-game season.
"Everybody's disappointed," Braun said. "It's impossible to be completely prepared, but at the same time, we all knew what we were getting into. By no means are those things a crutch or an excuse as to why we didn't play well, but it's also a fact. We're not where we would be a month or two from now. We lost to Mexico, the Dominican, and Puerto Rico, and all three of those teams were playing All-Star-caliber players on the other side. In short, one-game, playoff-type atmosphere, anything can happen and does happen."
Lucroy was back in the lineup for the Brewers on Sunday after limited game action serving as the backup catcher behind Joe Mauer for most of the tournament. Braun played six full games, however, and will not start for the Brewers before Tuesday or Wednesday.
Roenicke would like more looks at Davis
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brewers spring phenom Khris Davis continued to soak up the Cactus League action Sunday, making a start as the designated hitter and taking advantage of left fielder Ryan Braun's absence from the lineup as he recoves from his participation in the World Baseball Classic.
"It's a breath of fresh air," Davis said of the attention he's commanding this spring. "I have to appreciate it while it lasts."
The 25-year-old, ranked as the Brewers' No. 16 prospect by MLB.com, has forced himself into the roster conversation, and manager Ron Roenicke wants to see as much as possible of Davis before Braun returns to the lineup midweek.
"When Brauny gets back in there, it's going to limit [Davis'] playing time, but I'd like to maybe give him some pinch-hit at-bats in some of these games and see how he looks there," Roenicke said. "If it worked out to where he was on the club, that's the role he'd be in, not starting, probably."
Davis was slated to start the season at Triple-A, where he played 32 games last season after starting the season at Double-A, and the organization would typically want to ensure regular playing time for him, but it could be tough to resist a right-handed bat with power off the bench.
"Bench player is a tough role, but it doesn't scare me," Davis said. "I've done it before. I did it in college. I didn't start my sophomore year, and I came off the bench for some pinch-hits and had good success. So I've got confidence in that area."
Greinke still keeps up with Brewers
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first time Zack Greinke's new Dodgers club faced the Brewers since he was traded away last July, the former Cy Young Award winner and Brewers ace was scratched from a scheduled start with a sore elbow. That was last Monday, and with the Brewers visiting the Dodgers on Sunday, Greinke had his first bullpen session since the scratch, throwing 38 pitches.
Though he was reluctant to discuss his $147 million elbow, Greinke lit up when talking about his old teammates.
"They did really good last year," Greinke said of Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, and Mark Rogers, the young arms vying to make the rotation behind Yovani Gallardo. "The one thing that's going to help them is they have Yo at the top. He could help them all out, and they can watch him. If they didn't have him at the top, it would be something maybe to worry about."
In a year and a half in Milwaukee, Greinke went 25-9 with a 3.67 ERA. He was 9-3 before the trade, and after a 44-54 start to their season, the Brewers finished up on a 39-25 tear after the trade.
"Rickie Weeks came back to form, and that's a huge difference," Greinke said of the club's improvement. "The pitching staff didn't miss a beat, it seemed like. And then the bullpen did better, too."
Greinke has tried to keep up with the Brewers, staying in touch with teammates and even dining once or twice with general manager Doug Melvin.
"I learned a lot from him," Greinke said. "He was a great general manager. I liked how they ran the front office and the coaching staff and the players. He did a good job. He treated me good."
The 29-year-old even chipped in on the Draft process, passing his evaluations along and observing the process as the picks were made.
"I didn't talk to the actual guy making the pick at all, I don't think," Greinke said. "I didn't have any influence, but it was fun. I talked to some of the guys about them, but not the people making the decisions. It's interesting to follow."
Greinke's player-evaluation chops were on display with his advice regarding center fielder Carlos Gomez, who was signed to a three-year, $24 million contract extension last week.
"Gomez is my favorite," Greinke said. "I've been telling them they should sign him ever since I got there. Give him a 10-year deal. I love Gomez. He's going to be a good player. They should have given him a six-year deal two years ago. It would have been cheaper."
Though he's only pitched five innings in the Cactus League so far, he's had a smooth transition from manager Ron Roenicke to Don Mattingly, calling them both "laid back, players-manager-type guys." But the transition from Milwaukee to L.A. has not been seamless.
"The only thing I can complain about, I guess, is I have to talk about my injury every single day, where with my rib [injury in the 2011 Brewers spring camp], I probably just talked about it one time."
• Gallardo pitched two innings against the Dodgers on Sunday, yielding three runs on five hits, including a three-run shot to Adrian Gonzalez on a back-door slider he left up over the plate. Gallardo pitched on three days' rest to put him on schedule for his Opening Day start.
"It was just to get the schedule set up," Gallardo said of his focus during the abbreviated outing. "It was a rough first inning, but the start before that was four innings, one hit, and one run. Today, mechanics-wise, I was a little off."
Gallardo threw 30 pitches Sunday. He has been in the 50-pitch range previously, and will probably jump to 75 in his next start to get back on pace.
• Right-handed reliever Donovan Hand continues to impress in his first big league camp. The 27-year-old has pitched eight innings in six games without allowing a run. He's given up four hits, struck out four, and earned a save.
"He mixes up pitches well," Roenicke said. "He's got good command of them. He's got a nice curveball. Looks like he knows how to pitch and he knows how to get guys out. He's not always out there 3-2. He does a lot of nice things."
Hand has a 3.60 ERA in 210 Minor League appearances, and Roenicke sees him as having a shot at cracking his first big league roster.
"I'm not sure he's out of the picture for being with us this year," Roenicke said. "We have one spot, probably, in the bullpen, or really, I guess, two spots. Who knows?"
• Lucroy was 1-for-3 in his first game back since playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He is likely to play in a Minor League game Monday so he can get at-bats every inning without playing the field.
"We may send him over just to get a bunch of at-bats and then maybe play him the next day," Roenicke said. "I wasn't going to play him tomorrow, so he might as well get some at-bats and then catch the next day."
• The Brewers released three Minor League players Sunday: outfielder Malcolm Dowell, catcher Emmanuel Quiles, and right-handed pitcher Stosh Wawrzasek.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.