PHOENIX -- For now, Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun will remain with Team USA for treatment on a right rib cage injury. Braun tweaked one of the muscles in his lower back during his third of four at-bats in Team USA's win over the Netherlands on Sunday night before exiting the game as a precaution. Because the injury is similar to the one that dogged Braun during the second half of 2008, Brewers officials considered bringing Braun back to Phoenix or sending him to Milwaukee for a visit with team medical staffers. Instead, he will remain in Miami, where Marlins doctors have been busy with a number of injured U.S. players.
"They thought it was very mild," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said after consulting with Florida doctors. "We did talk briefly about an MRI, but they didn't feel it was warranted at this time." Ash said Braun had spoken with Brewers head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger and that he "probably" would not play for the U.S. in an elimination game against either Puerto Rico or Venezuela on Tuesday. Braun's official diagnosis is the same as last year -- strained intercostals, a series of muscles between the ribs -- but it's in a different spot, lower in Braun's back, than the strain that affected his swing last August and September. Still, the concern is that the injury could linger. Braun left a game last Aug. 9 complaining of tightness along his ribs and batted .238 with seven home runs in his final 37 games, including a stretch of 115 plate appearances with one home run. For comparison, he batted .300 and hit 30 homers in the 114 games before he was hurt. Braun joins a rash of players both on Team USA and at Brewers camp in Phoenix fighting rib cage injuries. Team USA's Chipper Jones and Dustin Pedroia have them, and Brewers pitcher Braden Looper and center fielder Mike Cameron did, too, before returning to action Monday. Looper pitched in a Minor League scrimmage, and Cameron started the Brewers-Cubs game. Why are such injuries suddenly so common? "Nobody has an answer for you on that," Ash said. "I've asked the questions. Are we doing something different in terms of conditioning? Are we doing something in terms of exercise regimen that's different? And we're not. "It just seems to be that there is a cycle of these things, and we're in the cycle this year for that one." Brewers manager Ken Macha said he wasn't worried. "Injuries happen," Macha said. "We've got 20 days left [before the start of the season], and they're going to run some tests on him." On Sept. 25, the day Braun belted a game-winning grand slam to beat the Pirates, he broke his silence about the extent to which the rib injury affected his swing. It was, "the most frustrating thing I've ever been through as a baseball player," he said. "I'm never making excuses to justify my performances, but physically, I have been unable to do what I'm used to be doing." Braun is 7-for-17 (.412) in five World Baseball Classic games with one home run and two RBIs. Team USA plays the winner of Monday's Puerto Rico-Venezuela game on Tuesday and must win to advance to the semifinals in Los Angeles.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.