MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is scheduled to have surgery this week to fix a nagging nerve problem near his right thumb.
The injury contributed to Braun having one of the least productive full seasons of his career. He went hitless in three at-bats in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs to finish the year hitting .266 with 19 homers and 81 RBIs in 580 plate appearances.
Braun said Sunday the rare procedure involved going into the thumb and freezing the nerve. The problem, which carried over from the 2013 season, affected his swing.
Braun's subpar production was one key reason the Brewers were 9-22 down the stretch to get eliminated from the postseason after spending five months atop the National League Central.
"If I was relatively healthy, if I was performing up to the standard I set for myself that we'd be in a different place as a team. It makes it that much more difficult for me personally to accept the way the season went," Braun said.
Neither Braun nor manager Ron Roenicke knew much about the specifics of the procedure or recovery time. But Braun remained hopeful it would finally fix a lingering issue.
"The whole reason we hadn't done it sooner was because there isn't a lot of experience in doing this specific surgery that I'm getting done," he said.
The 2011 NL MVP missed the final 65 games of last season after being suspended as part of the Biogeneis doping scandal.
But the extra time off didn't help. The career .307 hitter was at .301 on July 26 but tailed off the last two months of the season.
"I don't think we were that far off. If we get back to that, we still have a really nice player," Roenicke said before Sunday's loss. "But we do need to get back to that. ... I think he feels like if he can get this thumb issue behind him, he can be that same player again."
Braun will certainly be back. It's unclear how much of a housecleaning there might be in the offseason though after the late-season swoon.
"It's been a hard year. It has. It's been the hardest since I've been here," said fourth-year manager Roenicke.
Milwaukee finished in third place in the division at 82-80, out of the playoffs for the third straight year.
On Sunday, Anthony Rizzo had a two-run homer among his three hits to lead the Cubs. Rizzo went deep to center off Mike Fiers (6-5) in the first.
Jacob Turner (6-11) allowed four hits and two runs in five-plus innings. He beat Milwaukee for the second time since being traded from Miami in August.
The Cubs are building for the future with Rizzo and rookie right-handed hitters Javier Baez and Jorge Soler. Chicago was 31-28 since July 28.
"There's always optimism and now you can see it around everywhere. We each got to keep the course, though," Rizzo said.
THE .300 MAN
All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy, playing first base, went 2 for 4 to finish the year hitting .300. Roenicke started him at first in the finale hoping he could reach the .300 plateau. Lucroy over the weekend set the single-season record for most doubles by a catcher with 46.
"I mean it's great and dandy but for me it doesn't really matter right now," Lucroy said, "because I'm still going to go home and be (mad) for a month until I calm a little bit from the way it's been the past month."
Second baseman Rickie Weeks didn't play in what may well have been his last game with the Brewers, who are unlikely to pick up his option next year. The right-hander spent the season in a platoon with young left-handed hitter Scooter Gennett. Weeks was drafted second overall by Milwaukee in 2003.
Cubs: Three players finished the season on the disabled list. OFs Justin Ruggiano (left foot) and Ryan Sweeney (hamstring) have been sidelined since late August. RHP James McDonald spent the whole season sidelined with shoulder inflammation.
Cubs: Stocked with promising prospects, Chicago finished 73-89 for the year, seven wins better than 2013.
Brewers: When asked before the game, Roenicke said it was uncomfortable not knowing about his immediate future. GM Doug Melvin said this weekend that the fates of Roenicke and the coaching staff had not been decided. Roenicke is under contract through next season.
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