Ryan Braun’s return puts Brewers on good footing in NL Central

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In doing the Brewers’ edition of running down the rosters earlier this month, I presented two lineups: one with Ryan Braun and one without him for the 50 games he appeared likely to miss pending the appeal of his PED suspension.

Needless to say, the one with the exonerated 2011 NL MVP looked a whole lot better:

2B Rickie Weeks -R
CF Nyjer Morgan – L
LF Ryan Braun – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
RF Corey Hart – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan Lucroy – R
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Sure, Prince Fielder to Ramirez is quite a downgrade in the cleanup spot, but Ramirez did hit .306/.361/.510 for the Cubs last year, showing he’s still viable there. If Mat Gamel hits, that’s a pretty solid group. And if he doesn’t, there are usually first basemen available cheap as the summer goes on.

Without Braun, the Brewers looked like the NL Central’s third-best team in paper. Sure, the Cardinals lost an even better player than Fielder in Albert Pujols, but they also gained Adam Wainwright and Carlos Beltran. The Reds finished 17 games behind the Brewers last season, but they have the better offense and a pitching staff that should be much improved with Mat Latos in the rotation and Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson finishing games.

Now the NL Central race looks pretty even again. Advanced statistics will say that losing Braun for 50 games shouldn’t have meant more than two or maybe three extra losses in the first two months. However, sometimes there’s just no digging out of that early hole, and with the Brewers already over-budget, there probably aren’t going to be any big summer acquisitions if the team finds itself hovering around .500.

Dustin Fowler is suing the White Sox over an outfield collision

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Tom Schuba of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Athletics outfielder Dustin Fowler has filed suit against the White Sox for negligence. Fowler sustained a season-ending injury during a collision at Guaranteed Rate Field last June and is also bringing the lawsuit against the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority agency, as neither party took measures to secure the ballpark’s unpadded electrical box that exacerbated his injuries.

The 22-year-old outfielder was just two outs into his major league debut with the Yankees when the incident occurred. Fowler tracked a Jose Abreu foul ball down the first base line and flipped over the short railing. He was noticeably limping after colliding with a knee-high electrical box at the wall and collapsed to the ground within seconds before being carted off the field.

The official diagnosis: a ruptured patellar tendon and season-ending surgery on his right knee. Per Schuba’s report, which can be read here in full, Fowler has claimed “‘severe and permanent’ external and internal injuries, as well as mental pain and anguish” following the collision.

No specific demands have been publicized yet. Fowler is said to be seeking money from both the White Sox and the Sports Facilities Authority, likely enough to cover the “large sums” he spent on medical care for the surgery and related treatments.