No rust: Strong debut nothing new for Braun

Brewers slugger goes 1-for-1 with RBI, run scored in first game since September

No rust: Strong debut nothing new for Braun

PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun was once again off and running in Spring Training.

Continuing his habit of active spring debuts, Braun's first at-bat since September produced an RBI single, and he later walked and scored a run in the Brewers' 5-2 win over the White Sox on Wednesday at Maryvale Baseball Park. Braun deemed it a successful first test of his surgically repaired lower back.

"I told them I'm good. Until April 4, I'm good. Shut it down," Braun said, referring to the Brewers' regular-season opener at home against the Giants. "One-for-one with a walk, felt good, shut it down. I'm good until April 4. See you then."

Braun was kidding, of course. Braun will take Thursday off, but he is expected to play again on Friday against the Reds at Maryvale Baseball Park.

The busy "opening day" was nothing new for Braun, who is in his 11th year of appearing in Cactus League games. He's reached safely in his first game in nine of those years, with hits in eight of them, and he is 11-for-23 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in those debuts.

Wednesday was particularly eventful. After making a running catch to retire the first White Sox batter of the game, Braun tested his legs again following a third-inning walk by scoring from first base on Chris Carter's double to the left-center-field gap.

Carter's RBI double

"He got a test in every area of the game, which is great," manager Craig Counsell said. "He had a ball he had to go quite a ways to catch, two good at-bats, ran the bases both times, had to score from first. When you're coming off any kind of surgery and you have a day like that, it makes you gain a lot of confidence in your body."

Was Counsell holding his breath as Braun slid home on a close play at the plate?

"No, that's a baseball play," Counsell said. "It's a baseball play that he wants to be able to do. You're glad it happened, actually, because now he knows he can do it."

Braun concurred.

"The biggest challenge is some of the things you can't prepare for," Braun said. "Going first to home, having to slide, running catches, stuff like that. So the more that I'm able to challenge my body, the more confident and comfortable I'll be that I am back to 100 percent."

Braun discusses season

Braun batted .285 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs and returned to the All-Star Game for the first time in three years last season before undergoing surgery in October to relieve a bulging disc in his back. When Braun reported for Spring Training last month, he was still shy of 100 percent, so he and Counsell mapped out a plan that had Braun debuting Wednesday.

"We just didn't share it just in case we decided to change the plan for whatever reason, but this is what we had planned from the very beginning," Braun said. "I've always said I don't think I really need a lot of live pitching -- I haven't seen live pitching since last season.

"So, pretty good for the first day."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for 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.