PHOENIX (CBS) — Ryan Braun quickly got into the swing of spring.
The Milwaukee slugger homered in his first at-bat of the exhibition season and the Brewers beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 Saturday.
“There was nothing I didn’t like about it,” Braun said. “It was a home run. Homers are cool. I love home runs. I think I’m definitely ahead of where I usually am this time of year.”
Braun hit only two home runs during spring training last year. He played just in home games for the first week to ease his exposure after he became the only major leaguer to have a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs reversed.
Braun’s name surfaced again in late January in connection with a Miami anti-aging clinic that reportedly provided PEDs to professional athletes. Braun has denied using PEDs.
“He’s really good upstairs,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s able to handle a lot of different situations really well.”
The 2011 NL MVP hit .319 with a league-leading 41 home runs, 112 RBIs and 30 stolen bases last year.
Braun will soon be leaving the club to prepare for the World Baseball Classic with Team USA. He hit a solo shot over the center-field fence with two outs in the first inning off Jesse Chavez.
“That’s pretty amazing, that with two strikes you could do that,” Roenicke said. “He’s an amazing player and I just don’t think he needs as much work as everybody else to get ready. He’s gifted.”
Braun has accelerated his spring regimen to prepare for the WBC, where he’s set to start in left field. With only four outfielders on the roster, he’s already been told by the team’s coaching staff to expect to play nine full innings in each of the team’s first three games.
“I’ll be ready,” Braun said. “Those games are fun. You put on a USA jersey, the intensity ramps up and it’s a lot of fun.”
Milwaukee starter Mike Fiers allowed a hit and two walks in two scoreless innings and struck out two.
Oakland shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima made his debut after signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract.
“The environment and the ambiance were fabulous,” the 30-year-old Nakajima said through an interpreter. “It pumped me up. I was very excited.”
Nakajima walked and popped out. He also was the pivot on a double play started when second baseman Jemile Weeks made a backhanded stab of a short hop as he fell to his knees.
“I knew Weeks was going to get to the ball,” Nakajima said. “The rest was how he was going to flip the ball to me.”
NOTES: Brewers closer John Axford threw a scoreless third inning. … Milwaukee 3B Aramis Ramirez struck out looking in both his at-bats. … CF Chris Young made his Oakland debut, striking out with the bases loaded in the first and grounded out to short in the fourth. … LHP Travis Blackley will start for Oakland on Sunday in Tempe against the Los Angeles Angels. RHP Mark Rodgers will start for the Brewers.
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