PHOENIX — Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat back from suspension, Juan Francisco went deep twice and the Milwaukee Brewers opened their spring training schedule with an 11-3 win Thursday over the Oakland Athletics.
Braun hit an 0-1 pitch from starter Tommy Milone high in the air and over the fence near the left-field corner. The 2011 NL MVP was greeted mainly by a hearty chorus of cheers, though there were some jeers as he stepped to the plate.
It was Braun’s first time in the Brewers’ lineup since July 21, 2013. He was suspended 65 games the next day for violating Major League Baseball’s drug agreement.
Braun also debuted at his new position, right field, and fielded a first-inning single. But it was the homer that impressed fans.
“Not surprising,” Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. “He’s one of those guys, just a special athlete.”
Milone was tagged for three runs in two innings. Jed Lowrie had a two-run double in the first for Oakland.
“We weren’t very good overall,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Braun we tried to go in with a cutter, other than that I thought Milone was pretty good.”
Brewers: Marco Estrada allowed two runs on two walks and two hits in the first inning before getting Derek Norris to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play.
Estrada said the first inning of the first game of the spring just felt weird. He was rusty and also was thinking about developing his secondary pitches.
Estrada stopped overthinking in a 1-2-3 second, his final inning.
“I threw all fastballs and changeups. I stopped worrying about working on curveballs, cutters,” he said. “Going out there for the second inning just felt much better.”
Athletics: Searching for his command, Milone found trouble instead.
“Working in and out, and that resulted in throwing the ball over the plate. I got a feel for all my pitches,” he said.
Otherwise, Milone said his arm felt fine. He’s competing for a spot in the rotation.
Brewers: Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was not in the lineup, as expected. He is being eased into spring training after having surgery in early January to remove a non-cancerous polyp from his colon.
Athletics: Catcher John Jaso, hit above his right elbow by a pitch Wednesday, will be given a couple of days off. Right-handed reliever Ryan Cook (shoulder) threw on flat ground Wednesday and is expected to throw a bullpen session early next week.
TWO FOR JUAN
Free agents Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds drew the attention in the offseason after signing minor league deals in hopes of helping to fill the Brewers’ open first base job.
But a holdover candidate, Francisco, supplied the power Thursday. Getting the start at first, Francisco homered to center field in the second inning and to right in the fourth.
“When he squares up balls, it doesn’t matter what part of the park,” Roenicke said. “Only a handful of guys have his kind of power.”
With the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy headed for home in the third, Athletics catcher Derek Norris took a throw from Sam Fuld before the ball bounced out of his mitt.
Norris said it wasn’t because he was thinking about baseball’s new rule limiting home plate collisions.
“It’s just the first real live play of the year,” Norris said. “I turned my eyes toward the tag and the ball popped out. That part is knocking off the rust. That won’t happen again.”
Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who has been working out visa arrangements in his native Venezuela, is expected to finally report to camp on Saturday. Rodriguez signed a $3.25 million, one-year contract this month and is expected to help set up closer Jim Henderson.