Braun sits with neck stiffness vs. Reds

Veteran slugger misses start for eighth time in Brewers' last 14 games

Braun sits with neck stiffness vs. Reds

MILWAUKEE -- On the same day the Boston Globe quoted one National League scout as saying Ryan Braun is "the hot name out there" on the trade market, that name was again absent from the Brewers' starting lineup. And this time, it's a new physical ailment.

A stiff neck sidelined Braun for the start of Sunday's series finale against the Reds at Miller Park, marking the eighth time in the Brewers' last 14 games that Braun was on the bench for the opening pitch.

The previous absences were for soreness in his surgically-repaired lower back (May 18-21) and for a sore right wrist (May 14-15). He was also out of the starting lineup Saturday.

"Ryan wants to play as much as anyone," Brewers GM David Stearns said. "I think [manager] Craig [Counsell] has been around Ryan for a long time, knows who the player is, understands how he's feeling on a daily basis, and I think Craig is doing a really good job of managing it to make sure we get a healthy Ryan Braun for the remainder of the season and for years to come."

Asked whether the DL was an option for Braun, Stearns said, "at this point, we don't think that's necessary."

Braun's back -- he had surgery in October to relieve a bulging disc -- remains the primary concern, and the Brewers have worked closely with Braun to maximize the 32-year-old's playing time. The consensus is that it's better to have Braun healthy for a slightly reduced number of games (140 was the target entering the season) than to force him into the lineup in a compromised physical state.

Braun's solo home run to center

Until recently, it had worked. Entering Sunday, Braun was second in the National League with a 1.006 OPS, third with a .351 batting average and had reached safely in 37 of 41 games. His streak of reaching safely in a career-high 29 straight games ended when Braun grounded into a double play as a pinch-hitter in Saturday's loss.

"The stiffness in his neck showed up [Saturday] night pretty bad," Counsell said, indicating Braun could not comfortably turn his head. "He's hurting today a little bit."

The Brewers are also without starting right fielder Domingo Santana, who is on the DL with a right shoulder injury. Counsell believes Santana will be ready to return soon after June 3, the first day he's eligible for reinstatement.

As for the bigger picture, Braun is indeed a potential trade target for contending teams, despite being in the first season of a five-year, $105 million contract extension. The scout quoted by the Boston Globe believed the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants and White Sox were "good fits" for a right-handed power hitter like Braun.

Stearns, of course, would not say whether the Brewers were in any trade talks.

"We get interest in a number of players," he said. "Certainly, any player who's performing at the level that Ryan is performing, you're going to get a level of interest. But we fully anticipate Ryan is going to be a Brewer for a very long time."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. 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.