(2/24/12) Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager Doug Melvin says he has a talented ball club – but it still would have been a “huge challenge” to start the season without both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.
Fielder is gone for good, after leaving for Detroit. But Braun will be in the dugout wearing his traditional Number-8 on Opening Day, after he won his appeal of a positive drug test from last October. The Brewers did sign three-time Japanese batting champion Nori Aoki as a possible replacement in left, had Braun been suspended 50 games to start the year. But still, Milwaukee would have been hard-pressed to replace last year’s National League M-V-P and his .332 batting average from a year ago with 33 homers, 33 stolen bases, 111 R-B-I’s, and 109 runs scored. Braun also provides a solid glove, as he was a finalist for last year’s Gold Glove award in left. The Brewers managed to replace much of Fielder’s home run power by signing Cubs’ slugger Aramis Ramirez to play at third base. Still, Braun gives Milwaukee a better chance at a solid start, as World Series Champion Saint Louis proves to be a solid contender without Albert Pujols – and Cincinnati added an extra power bat in Ryan Ludwick. Also, Braun’s presence gives Aoki a chance to ease into the Majors, by backing up all three outfield positions with an occasional pinch-hitting role.