MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers placed third baseman Aramis Ramirez back on the 15-day disabled list Monday with a sprained left knee and replaced him on the active roster with left fielder Ryan Braun, whose return was originally planned for later in the week.
The plan changed when Ramirez experienced increased discomfort in a left knee that has bothered him since he returned in May from a month-long stint on the DL. Instead of easing Ramirez into the All-Star break, the Brewers opted to shut him down completely with a retroactive DL move that will make Ramirez eligible to return July 22 after missing only the Brewers' three-game series against the Marlins after the break.
Braun, who missed 22 games since June 9 because of an inflamed nerve in his right hand that produced pain while swinging the bat, was not in the starting lineup Monday but was available to pinch-hit.
Assuming no setbacks in batting practice, he expected to start Tuesday's game against the Reds and left-hander Tony Cingrani.
"It's exciting more than it is a relief," Braun said. "Being on the DL is not something I enjoyed. It definitely made me appreciate the last six years, having never spent time on the DL, because it's just a lot of long and boring days. I'm excited to be back, excited to be able to compete again and be able to contribute, hopefully, to some better baseball."
How close is he to 100 percent?
"It's not close to 100 percent, but we don't expect it to be close to 100 percent all year," Braun said. "So as long as it's good enough, I am thrilled about that."
Does he worry about doing further damage to his hand by playing with pain?
"I don't think it would do any good to have a negative mindset like that," Braun said. "I'm optimistic that we're in a good place. It's felt good the last few days, and that's what I anticipate moving forward."
Braun's return was accelerated dramatically beginning Tuesday at Nationals Park, where he swung a bat for the first time in a week and felt much less pain in his hand. He took more dry swings each of the subsequent two days, then took full batting practice for the first time on Saturday at Miller Park.
All of those sessions went well, giving Braun and the Brewers hope that he would beat an earlier timetable that had him sidelined through the All-Star break.
The only bad news was that the move cost the Brewers their cleanup hitter, Ramirez, whose production has sagged this season because of his balky left knee. He sprained it in Spring Training and missed two weeks, then sprained it again in the Brewers' fourth game of the season and missed a month.
Since his return, manager Ron Roenicke has closely monitored Ramirez's playing time to avoid setbacks. But Ramirez has developed some patellar tendinitis in the knee.
"That's starting to bark on him," Roenicke said. "We were going to go the days in Arizona and probably not play him [in the team's last series heading into the break]. We just thought this was a better way to do it."
Ramirez had some input on his playing schedule and so will Braun, but the final say belongs to Roenicke and the Brewers' athletic trainers, Braun said. The loose plan calls for him to start Tuesday, sit out Wednesday's day game, then play some of the Brewers' four games in Arizona in the final series of the first half.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less