ST. LOUIS -- Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun left the team Wednesday to travel to California to undergo a second cryotherapy procedure on his troublesome right thumb.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell downplayed the significance of this latest development, saying the procedure was pre-planned and referring to it as "maintenance." But it was the first public indication of any kind that Braun's first such procedure in October, during which a specialist injected a needle into the base of Braun's thumb to freeze an inflamed nerve there, had "worn off" and needed to be repeated.
Dr. Vernon Williams, the same specialist who performed Braun's first cryotherapy, did this one as well at his clinic in Anaheim. While there is no track record for a baseball player with this issue (technically, a thumb neuroma), Williams has told the Brewers that the procedure can be repeated safely as long as is it not done more frequently than every three to four months, perhaps throughout the remainder of Braun's playing career if symptoms persist.
Braun's most recent contract extension -- a five-year, $105 million deal -- does not kick in until the start of next season. It runs through 2020.
Counsell expects Braun back in Milwaukee's lineup as early as Friday night in Minnesota, and by Sunday at the latest.
"He feels like this therapy he gets really significantly helps," Counsell said. "It gets him back to 100 percent, and if we can keep him at 100 percent, then we've got the great Ryan Braun for 150 games. [The cryotherapy] apparently has a shelf life, I guess you'd say, and we're getting up on that shelf life. We felt like now is a good time to do it."
The Brewers have a day off Thursday before an Interleague series against the Twins.
Braun was Milwaukee's player of the month for May, when he hit eight home runs with 28 runs scored. But he was 1-for-8 in the first two games of the team's series in St. Louis.
"It's not a situation where he can't play," Counsell said. "We've seen that. He's playing. But he just felt a little deterioration in it, and the effectiveness of the therapy had kind of expired. It's more [to] get him at 100 percent and not just get through it for the rest of the season."
Asked whether this means Braun will continue to need cryotherapy shots throughout his career, Counsell said, "I don't know the answer to that. I think the chances are probably that he's going to have to deal with it, but that doesn't mean it's going to affect him. He's confident he can manage it well. We're trying to get him at his best for the next 100 games, rather than get him at a percentage of himself and just grind through it."
Counsell said Braun was upbeat when he departed following Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Cardinals.
"Ryan, he feels really good about it and confident about it," Counsell said. "This is a minor thing to me. It's difficult with the roster a little bit, but it's a small day-to-day thing."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.