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Braun excelling at plate, in field

Braun excelling at plate, in field

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has lived up to expectations with the bat, including a recent surge of late-inning home runs that have played greatly in Milwaukee's recent winning ways.

Such heroics have completely obscured Braun's acclimation on the other side of the ball.

After his seventh outfield assist of the season on Friday and a sterling sliding catch on Saturday in the series against Houston, Braun has become everything the Brewers hoped for when they moved him out to left field for the 2008 season. He has yet to commit an error after logging 26 miscues at third base last season.

"I'm really comfortable," Braun said. "Probably after about 10 or 15 games, I felt like I'd played there my whole career. I feel like I've played really well, and I just continue to learn. Every different ballpark I go to, it's getting used to the dimensions, getting used to certain places where the ball could get lost in the lights, just little things like that."

Braun saw the ball perfectly when his sliding backhanded catch ended the eighth inning on Saturday, not long after his two-run homer tied the game at 4-4.

"Gotta watch them both," Braun said, when asked which highlight he would rather watch. "I try to take something positive from every game. I'll go watch the home run a couple times and watch the catch a couple times. I'll remember those things."

On Lance Berkman's single in the seventh on Friday, Braun initially looked to throw to third base but he reconsidered, tossing to second instead to retire a stretching Berkman. His seventh outfield assist tied him for sixth among National Leaguers.

"I try to instill their heads, even in Spring Training, you always try to keep the double play in order," said first-base coach Ed Sedar, the team's resident outfield defense expert. "The chances of throwing out the primary runner are minute, but to get the secondary runner, either [keeping him] staying at first or trying to advance, is a higher opportunity."

Said Braun, "Maybe early on in the year, I would have just thrown the ball to third base. Little things like that, I've learned."

Sedar said he felt Braun measured up among the league's elite left fielders.

"He probably has the best arm in baseball in left field," Sedar said. "He can cover more ground than 90 percent of the outfielders out there."

Though Braun entered the season with the reputation as a defensive liability, his impressive performance in the field could make him an attractive option when voting for the Gold Gloves takes place. No National League left fielder has played more innings or had more chances than Braun, though Gold Gloves do not differentiate between the outfield positions, and the hardware often goes to center fielders.

"I'm sure that's a goal of his," Sedar said. "It's to become the best out there. I don't know if they just hand them out to center fielders or not, but he's doing an outstanding job out there. "

JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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