MILWAUKEE -- You don't see this every day: Brewers slugger Ryan Braun on the field nearly four hours before the first pitch, clad in shorts and a T-shirt for early batting practice. It's the latest unusual step in an effort to shake Braun out of a rare batting slump. "I think it's the second time every in my career," said Braun. He meant the second time since his rookie season. Rookies are generally expected to take early batting practice, which is mostly an exercise to help bench players get the swings they are not getting in games.
For Braun, the appearance was an exercise in shaking a slump. From Aug. 1 through Tuesday, when Braun went 0-for-5, including a game-ending flyout with the tying run on base, he was 9-for-47 (.191) with no home runs -- and, just as notably, no walks -- in 49 plate appearances. On Wednesday, Braun took a day off. On Thursday, he went back to work in early batting practice, a break from his usual pregame routine. It paid off in the first inning, as he connected on his 30th home run, a solo shot to right field off Phillies lefty Cliff Lee. In the fourth, Braun drilled another solo shot off Lee. "I'm big on my routine. I've always said you don't have control over results, focus on process, that type of thing, so I don't like to break my routine too often," Braun said. "But every once in a while, when things aren't going well, it makes sense to come out and take a little early BP. ... "I'm always quality over quantity. I don't like doing too much. Plus, so can only focus on baseball for so long and keep up the intensity and focus that makes it worthwhile. You can take a million swings, but if you're not doing them correctly, you're building bad muscle memory. So I've just never been a fan of quantity over quality." So, will Thursday's extra swings make a difference? "I feel good. BP is not the problem," Braun said. "I'm hitting 1.000 in BP. I'm dominating batting practice every day. It's a challenging game. You guys have heard me say it time and time again. Albert Pujols is the greatest hitter of our generation, arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of all time, and for the first five weeks, he hit under .200 with no home runs. Look at Josh Hamilton; he was as good as anybody ever for the first two months of the season, and then for two months, hit under .200. "It's a really challenging game. you try to keep your sanity when you're going bad, you try to figure out what's going on. But I think guys sometimes get themselves in trouble when they try to make too many changes. When you have a track record, you believe in what you do. I've proven to myself that what I do works, [so] that when I'm not going good, I don't want to make drastic changes. I don't need to make drastic changes." He is making some subtle adjustments at the plate, with the aim of better plate discipline. And Braun said again that he is healthy, having moved past the groin issue and deep blisters on his hand that dogged him earlier.