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Brewers go to work; Braun’s status unknown
PHOENIX — Ryan Braun's navy blue No. 8 uniform hangs in one of his corner lockers with a pair of perfectly crisp white pants. Four shoeboxes are stacked in his second space.
The wait for Milwaukee's NL MVP is on. The Brewers expect to hear any day whether arbitrator Shyam Das will uphold Braun's 50-game suspension for a positive drug test.
In the meantime, the team is moving forward in preparations for what manager Ron Roenicke expects to be a different formula for winning without departed slugger Prince Fielder and perhaps Braun, too. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan is among a large contingent of position players already in camp ahead of Saturday's first full-squad workout.
Roenicke said Monday he expects Braun to arrive in time for that initial practice. They traded text messages a few days ago, and Roenicke spoke to his star left fielder a couple of weeks back.
"He's doing good. He's been doing good all winter through this," Roenicke said as his pitchers and catchers took to the field for their first formal session. "He's excited to get going in spring training, and hopefully the outcome will be how we all want it."
The Brewers are plenty confident at the start of spring that they can make another playoff run even if they are without Braun early and big run producer, Fielder.
Milwaukee won 96 games and the NL Central last season and got by Arizona in the first round before losing in the NL championship series to division rival and eventual World Series champion St. Louis.
Braun, 28, the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year, hit .312 with 33 homers and 111 RBI last season and beat out Dodgers star Matt Kemp for the MVP award.
Milwaukee signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a $36 million, three-year contract in December to add a key bat and help lessen the effects of losing Fielder. General manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash were committed to building another successful team for 2012 with a chance to repeat as division champions.
• PIRATES: A.J. Burnett was happy to escape from New York. "It was fun the first couple of years. Then it got like, I'm never going to get out of this funk," he said Monday, a day after the Yankees dealt him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a pair of low-level prospects.
After signing an $82.5 million, five-year contract, Burnett, 35, helped the Yankees to their 27th World Series title in 2009. Then he slumped to a 21-26 record with a 5.20 ERA over the following two seasons.
Pittsburgh is paying just $13 million of Burnett's salary: $5 million this year and $8 million in 2013. The Yankees are paying the rest.
• PHILLIES: Cole Hamels sounds like a guy who expects to finish his career in red pinstripes. All that remains is for Hamels' agent, John Boggs, and the Philadelphia Phillies to agree on a long-term contract.
Speaking to reporters, Hamels expressed his fondness for the city, the organization and the fans.
The 2008 World Series MVP avoided arbitration in the offseason by signing a $15 million, one-year contract. He can become a free agent in November, but made it clear he'd rather stay in Philadelphia.
• BRAVES: Pitcher Tommy Hanson was checked for a possible concussion after blowing a tire on his way to the first workout of spring training. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he received a call from Hanson shortly after 7 a.m. Monday.
The right-hander wrecked near the team's Disney World training complex and apparently bumped his head on the steering wheel or windshield. If everything checks out OK, Hanson should be back on the field in the next day or two.
• DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew took part Monday in the Diamondbacks' first drills of spring training. Drew broke his right ankle and severely damaged ligaments sliding into home plate seven months ago.
By Tammy Bruce
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