Ryan Braun: I’m feeling “better than I’ve ever felt”

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All-star outfielder Ryan Braun gave the Brewers a big scare Saturday when he left the club’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks with a strained intercostal muscle.

It turns out he’s going to be just fine.

According to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, Braun actually suffered the injury while shagging fly balls against the outfield wall during pregame warmups. He felt healthy enough to start the game and only came out in the first inning as a precaution.

Braun spoke to McCalvy on Sunday afternoon and reported feeling not only “fine,” but also better than he has ever felt in his entire life.

“It’s nothing at all,” Braun said. “I could have played [Saturday] but there’s no sense in it. Honestly, I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life, so I don’t really need at-bats right now. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m better than I’ve ever been at baseball, so nothing positive comes from the rest of these Spring Training games. I don’t need at-bats. I feel great. So there’s no reason to take a chance right now.”
Braun is likely to sit out for the next week or so, but he can get his timing right in late March before the start of the regular season and be a healthy member of Milwaukee’s Opening Day starting lineup. The 27-year-old has immense natural talent and is certainly capable of backing up that “better than I’ve ever felt” talk. He has a .918 career OPS and 128 career home runs as a four-year major leaguer.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.