PHOENIX (AP) — Back from a lengthy suspension, Ryan Braun quickly displayed some power.
The slugger hit a two-run homer Thursday in his first at-bat for the Milwaukee Brewers since completing a season-ending, 65-game suspension in 2013 for violating Major League Baseball's anti-drug agreement.
In the first inning of Milwaukee's spring opener against Oakland, Braun hit an 0-1 pitch off Tommy Milone high over the wall near the left field corner, 345 feet away. The 2011 NL MVP got a hearty round of cheers, the loudest coming from fans in the dozen rows or so behind the Brewers bench at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the spring home of the Athletics.
"It's still the first day of spring training. Better to hit the ball hard then to strike out," Braun said. "The goal is to have a gradual progression to prepare myself for the season."
One that promises to have its share of hecklers for Braun, at least at the start. Just before the homer, one fan wearing an A's hat yelled "MVP-E-D."
Braun took it in stride.
"I've never experienced them not yelling at me," he said. "They have some new things to yell at me for, to yell at me about."
It was Braun's first game in the Brewers' lineup since July 21, 2013. The five-time All-Star accepted a 65-game penalty the next day for his involvement with Biogenesis, a Florida clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Braun took a quick jog around the bases and exchanged high-fives with teammates awaiting him at the dugout after the homer. The right thumb injury that hampered him last season doesn't seem to be a bother, either.