Braun hoping he'll be ready by Opening Day

Outfielder says he's slightly behind schedule while recovering from back surgery

Braun hoping he'll be ready by Opening Day

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun is behind schedule in his recovery from offseason back surgery, but he said Sunday during "Brewers On Deck" that he remains hopeful about playing on Opening Day.

Braun underwent surgery in the week following the regular season to relieve a bulging disk in his lower back, and he was just cleared do rotational exercises two weeks ago. He did not begin swinging a bat until last week.

"I usually don't start hitting until January, so I'm literally a couple weeks behind where I'd usually be," Braun said. "But overall, I'm definitely encouraged by where I'm at."

The Brewers' first full-squad workout is Feb. 25. The first Cactus League games are March 3.

"I won't be 100 percent at the start of Spring Training, no," Braun said. "I think it will kind of be a gradual process to work my way back to 100 percent. But I feel pretty good. I don't foresee any reason that it wouldn't be [ready for Opening Day], but until I get out there and start doing things at full speed, it's hard to say."

While his back remains a question mark, Braun said his right thumb remains pain-free, and he has no plans to undergo the cryotherapy treatment he last had in early May. With his hand functional again, he had a comeback season in 2015, batting .285 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Depending on how manager Craig Counsell uses newly acquired infielder Aaron Hill, Braun could prove the Brewers' most experienced regular position player. Braun is just 32.

"It's an interesting time for us," Braun said. "I think it's an exciting time. It's weird to look around and see so many young guys, so many people that haven't been part of the organization over the last few years.

"But I think we have probably more potential young impact players than we've had in a long time, probably since I've been part of the organization. If you look at it from that perspective, it's exciting. But in the near term, certainly a lot of change and continuing transition, I think."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.