Columnist Phil Rogers has decided Ryan Braun’s appeal for us

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Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune writes an overview of the Brewers.  He devotes much of it to arguing that the Ryan Braun contract was a terrible move by the Brewers, and even compares it unfavorably to Alex Rodriguez’s original $250 million deal with the Rangers.

Yes, the contract that will never pay him more than $20 million in a season and, compared to lots of other superstar deals, actually seems somewhat reasonable on the cash even if the length carries some risk. Hey, it’s his column, he can write what he wants.

But the most interesting thing about it is that he seems to blame the contract for Ryan Braun’s positive drug test in October. And, unlike the folks who have reported on the test, does not believe that it was inadvertent or the result of a tainted supplement or something. No, Rogers believes that it was Braun “amping up” his game in order to justify what, in the grand scheme of things, pretty reasonable contract:

Braun would have been a fool to say no to the deal, but it puts the onus on him to perform. So the guy who led the National League in slugging as a rookie amped up his game to again lead the NL in slugging and to compile a .994 OPS last season, earning an MVP award — and then he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance.

So great it is that Rogers can see past everything else being reported about Braun’s test, capture his true motivation — a desperate desire to justify his insane contract — and determine his specific transgression, which was to “amp up his game” and perform.

Thank you, Detective Rogers. Your services here are invaluable.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.