CHICAGO -- Brewers hitting coach turned Cubs manager Dale Sveum joined a growing list of baseball men who believe Ryan Braun will have another solid season, even without Prince Fielder hitting behind him."You always say that about great hitters and stuff, and the season gets over and their numbers still seem to be the same," Sveum said Monday, before managing against his former team. "There's a lot of great hitters and you say, 'He never had anyone hitting behind him,' and you look up and he hit 35 [home runs] and had 100-plus [RBIs]. Some guys are just that good. "One thing 'Braunie' has changed is discipline at the plate. Not that you put anybody in Barry Bonds' category, but Bonds never really had people hitting behind him and he seemed to get that one pitch a day and he'd do something with it. Those are things you have to be careful with, with guys who can swing a bat like Braun."
Sveum pointed to statistics to illustrate his point. According to FanGraphs.com, in 2008, Braun's first full Major League season, he swung at 34.3 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, the sixth-highest rate of qualified NL hitters. Braun has dropped that rate below 32 percent in each of the three seasons since.
"That's why you saw MVP numbers and a .330 [batting average] instead of .300," Sveum said. "When you get better pitches to hit, your average and everything will be much better."
Roenicke to keep close tabs on Hart's knee
CHICAGO -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart started the season healthy and swinging a hot bat, and manager Ron Roenicke's complicated task is keeping him that way.Hart went 4-for-9 with three long home runs in the Brewers' opening series against the Cardinals and went 1-for-3 in Monday's win over the Cubs, proof that Spring Training is overrated. He had right knee surgery in early March and was limited to just two Major League exhibitions, both against the D-backs. Now the trick becomes keeping Hart hot without burning him out. Roenicke discussed on Monday a plan for Hart, but said it could change based on the flow of games. "We'll see how many games we can play him without giving him a little break," Roenicke said. "He's doing really well. It's hard to take him out because [he's hot], and because he feels so well. If he was a little sore, I wouldn't have any problem taking him out, but he feels really good." Wednesday could present a logical opportunity for Hart's first rest. The Brewers and Cubs play a day game after a night game, and Hart is 8-for-41 (.195) against scheduled Chicago starter Ryan Dempster. Trouble is, Nyjer Morgan is 0-for-15 against Dempster and the Brewers' other outfielders have barely faced Dempster. "We'll see how that goes," Roenicke said. Hart has credited head athletic trainer Dan Wright and the Brewers' medical staff for his quick start. They presented him with an aggressive rehabilitation plan after a March 6 surgery to repair three tears to the meniscus in Hart's right knee. "I didn't want to back down," Hart said. "I wanted to be here, there were no setbacks, which was big, and the baseball stuff came pretty quick." According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hart became the first Brewer to hit three home runs over the first three games of the season since Jose Valentin in 1998.