PHOENIX -- The morning after he exited a Spring Training game with a rib-cage strain and sent word through a club spokesperson that he was "fine," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said it himself. Actually, he's not just fine. He's feeling better than ever. "It's nothing at all," Braun said. "I could have played [Saturday] but there's no sense in it. Honestly, I feel better than I've ever felt in my life, so I don't really need at-bats right now. There's no doubt in my mind I'm better than I've ever been at baseball, so nothing positive comes from the rest of these Spring Training games. I don't need at-bats. I feel great. So there's no reason to take a chance right now."
Braun, a three-time All-Star who has averaged 32 home runs and 105 RBIs in his four Major League seasons, put on another show during batting practice Sunday morning and is batting .313 in eight Cactus League games. Four of his five spring hits have gone for extra-bases, including two home runs. He tweaked his ribcage when he ran into the outfield wall during fungo drills on Saturday. He impacted the padded wall with his right side and felt some discomfort on his left, and departed the team's afternoon game against the D-backs as a precaution. The club called it an intercostals strain, referring to the small muscles between the ribs. Braun was previously scheduled to have Sunday's game off, but he took batting practice with the rest of the team and said that he expected to return to the lineup on Monday against the Giants. Tuesday at the latest, he said. Braun understands why his early departure on Saturday sparked some panic. The Brewers have already been bitten by injuries to starter Zack Greinke (ribs), right fielder Corey Hart (ribs), catcher Jonathan Lucroy (finger) and reliever Manny Parra (back), and Greinke will be on the disabled list for Opening Day. "I get it," he said. "But I promise you, I'm fine." The "better than I've ever been at baseball" comment didn't surprise Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who first met Braun in person during the offseason at Braun's favorite Italian restaurant in Malibu, Calif. "He has the confidence level of every superstar," Roenicke said. "They all have it, and that's what makes them great. If you talk to them, they'll make comments and you're like, 'Wow, that guy's really confident.' Or maybe cocky, whatever you want to call it." That line between confident and cocky is blurred, Roenicke said, for the super-talented. "The guys all know what he is like, and the comments he makes it's like, 'That's Braunny,'" Roenicke said with a shrug. "So far, at least what he's told me, he feels better swinging now, as far as strength and everything, than he ever has. I'm not saying he's totally locked in, like he would be during the middle of a season, but the swing and the strength he has, he feels great."