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Braun stands by statement, focuses on baseball

- Associated Press - Friday, February 15, 2013

PHOENIX (AP) - Ryan Braun had already let it be known he was not taking any questions about his reported link to a Florida anti-aging clinic when he faced reporters outside the Milwaukee Brewers' spring training clubhouse on Friday.

Before anyone asked a question, the Brewers slugger repeated the restrictions he'd placed on his first spring meeting with the media.

"I understand why a lot of you guys are probably here but I made a statement last week," Braun said. "I stand behind that statement. I'm not going to address that issue any further. As I stated, I'm happy to cooperate fully into any investigation into this matter."

He did answer one drug-related question, regarding the recent announcement by Major League Baseball and the players union that players will be subject to in-season, unannounced testing for human growth hormone.

"I've always been supportive of the system," Braun said. "I've always been supportive of additional drug testing or whatever testing they have that's available."

Braun's name appears in records from the now-defunct Biogenesis of America LLC clinic that is alleged to have provided performance enhancing substances to several players, including Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Nelson Cruz. Braun was not named in the original report on the clinic in an article in Miami New Times. Braun's ties first were reported by Yahoo Sports.

The Miami New Times reportedly kept Braun's name out of its article because his name did not have a specific substance next to it in clinic records.

After his name surfaced, Braun issued a statement saying he had used the clinic's operator, Anthony Bosch, as a consultant during his appeal of his 2011 positive test.

After that NL MVP season, Braun tested positive during the playoffs for steroids but vehemently fought the case. Eventually, his 50-game suspension was overturned during spring training last year by an arbiter who found chain-of-custody issues in the handling of Braun's test sample.

Any distraction the issue may have caused didn't seem to bother the Brewers star. Quite the contrary.

In 2012, Braun led the league in home runs with 41, was second in RBIs with 112 and third in batting average at .319. Still, it wasn't enough for a second straight MVP award. He finished second in the voting to San Francisco's Buster Posey.

Although the award went elsewhere, perhaps with the drug issue playing a part in the vote, Braun acknowledged some personal satisfaction with his on-field response to the off-field issues.

"Certainly it was challenging, for sure, but the goal every year is to be productive," he said. "I've always said the challenge in this game is consistency and longevity so the goal is to be as good as possible every year. But certainly last year I dealt with some added challenges and adversity so it was rewarding for sure."

Braun, for whatever anyone might think of him, has an undeniable knack for not letting things outside of his game affect the way he plays it.

"It's something I take a lot of pride in," he said. "It's not easy. I've always said that in baseball you deal with a lot of adversity. In life you deal with a lot of adversity, and the goal is always to try to be the same person. I've always been extremely positive and optimistic and I never allow outside distractions or negativity to influence that."

He said he appreciates the support shown by his manager, Ron Roenicke.

"He was the same guy last year, but he didn't have a day that went by where what happened wasn't on his mind," Roenicke said earlier this week in an interview. "It was hard on him. It was hard on him but it shows what kind of player he is, what kind of person he is, to turn around and have that kind of season he had last year."

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Roenicke said he really didn't know enough to reach any conclusions about what the latest report out of Florida meant, if anything.

"I really do not know what's going on. I really don't know much about it," the manager said. "So I don't really have much to say. What I'm in defense about is when the media _ not just him, I'm talking about anything _ the media brings up names when there's not enough there to really warrant the name being brought up."

As for the coming season, Roenicke said Braun already has shown how he can perform regardless of what's going on around him or what he's dealt with away from the field.

"I knew how bad last year was for him as far as his offseason. It was on his mind, I'm sure, every day," Roenicke said, "and I know what happened even after the decision when we went to different ballparks. The thing that was impressive is the way he played last year. He was second in MVP, could have been MVP. So I think it says a lot about his character for one, but I think that he can overcome some things that mentally some other guys aren't able to do."

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