Braun arrives ready to talk baseball, not Biogenesis
Second report allegedly links Brewers superstar to anti-aging clinic
PHOENIX -- Hours after reporting to Spring Training and declining to answer questions about Biogenesis, Ryan Braun faced a new round of questions about his link to the South Florida clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball.
ESPN.com on Friday afternoon published what it said is an additional excerpt from the logbooks of Tony Bosch, who headed the now-defunct anti-aging clinic, which includes Braun's name on what a source told ESPN was a list of Biogenesis clients. The firm is being investigated by MLB for allegedly supplying some players with banned substances.
The latest story was published hours after Braun had met reporters and made it clear he was not willing to field questions about Biogenesis.
"I am excited to be back out here for Spring Training, certainly looking forward to the World Baseball Classic and obviously excited and focused on our upcoming Brewers season," Braun said. "I understand why a lot of you guys are probably here, but I made a statement last week and I stand behind that statement. I'm not going to address that issue any further. As I stated, I'm happy to cooperate fully with any investigation into this matter.
"I respect the fact that all of you guys have a job to do and part of that job involves asking me questions. I'm happy to answer any and all questions about baseball, Spring Training, the World Baseball Classic or anything else. Thanks."
And with that began a 10-minute discussion of his achievements last season, the Brewers' chances in 2013 (he agrees they're underdogs in the National League Central), his excitement about the upcoming Classic and his half-kidding desire to get back to shortstop someday.
But Braun did not field any questions about Biogenesis. He was first linked to the clinic last week in a Yahoo! Sports report, and was linked again in the new ESPN report on Friday afternoon, which included a list allegedly from Bosch's notebook that includes Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Braun and Francisco Cervelli, with the figure "1500" written next to Braun's name.
Like the Yahoo! report, the new document does not list any banned substances next to Braun's name. But a source told ESPN that the new document was a list of players who received performance-enhancing drugs.
Braun has denied such charges, saying his attorneys only consulted with Bosch while working on Braun's appeal of a possible suspension during the 2011-12 offseason.
Braun attorney Martin Singer released a statement to ESPN on Friday:
"My client confirmed last week that there was an alleged claim for money owed to Mr. Bosch because he had been used as a consultant by my client's attorneys in his successful appeal with MLB last year. Several witnesses can corroborate how Mr. Bosch requested over thousands of dollars for his consulting with my client's attorneys last year. My client has no relationship with Tony Bosch, and the only relationship Mr. Bosch had was with my client's attorneys as a consultant."
Braun said as much in a statement last week after Yahoo! Sports first connected him to Biogenesis. On Friday morning, addressing reporters, he was asked one tangentially-related question about MLB and the MLB Players Association instituting a test for human growth hormone as a Brewers spokesperson redirected the discussion to "baseball questions."
Braun, though, answered that question.
"Look, I've always been supportive of the system," Braun said. "I've always been supportive of additional drug testing or whatever testing they have that's available."
Braun has been well-versed in baseball's Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program since October 2011, when he submitted to a routine urine test after Game 1 of the Brewers' NL Division Series against the D-backs. That December, the news broke that Braun was facing a suspension because of high levels of synthetic testosterone, beginning a long appeals process which Braun eventually won by convincing a three-member appeals panel that his sample was improperly handled.
It was during that appeals process, Braun said, that his lawyers contacted Bosch, whose personal notes were first published last month by the Miami New Times, sparking an MLB investigation into allegations that Bosch supplied banned substances to players like Rodriguez of the Yankees, Cabrera of the Blue Jays and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals. Later, Yahoo! Sports published more of Bosch's notes that included three references to Braun, who was left out of the original New Times report because his name was never associated with a substance or treatment. In one instance, Bosch appeared to note that Braun owed him $20,000-$30,000.
Braun quickly released a statement saying that his lawyers had only consulted with Bosch about testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratios and the possibilities of tampering with samples.
"There was a dispute over compensation for Bosch's work, which is why my lawyer and I are listed under 'moneys owed' and not on any other list," Braun said in his statement. "I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch. I will fully cooperate with any inquiry into this matter."
Before his session with reporters on Friday in Phoenix, that was Braun's only comment. A spokesperson for his agency declined requests from several media outlets, including MLB.com, to release documentation supporting Braun's characterization of Bosch as a consultant.
So some lingering questions followed Braun to Maryvale Baseball Park, where he and the Brewers would prefer the focus be on a team returning its potent offense mostly intact but moving forward with a young starting rotation and a rebuilt bullpen. Braun will aim for business as usual after batting .319 last season with an NL-best 41 home runs and the 11th 40-homer, 30-stolen base season in Major League history.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke is convinced that Braun will be able to overcome this latest controversy.
"I knew how bad last year was for him as far as his offseason. It was on his mind, I'm sure, every day," Roenicke said. "I think the thing that was impressive was how he played last year. He had the same [outstanding] year."
"I think when your character comes in question, it means different things to different people," Roenicke added. "He is a very proud guy. He's proud of what he does, how he works, how he goes about his job with the team, with the fans. So anytime something like that comes up, it means a lot to him."
Second baseman Rickie Weeks, now in his seventh season as Braun's teammate, said he and other players would be there to support Braun, just like they did last year.
"Just being here with the guys, I think it's going to help him out," Weeks said. "That's our teammate and he's my good friend. All you can do right now is help him through a time like this and wait for everything to come out."
Braun, who will probably face a new round of questions when he travels across town to join Team USA early next month for the World Baseball Classic, spoke of overcoming distractions. He has become accustomed to that over the past 15 months.
"It's not easy," Braun said. "I've always said that in baseball, you deal with a lot of adversity. In life, you deal with a lot of adversity. And the goal is to try to be the same person. I've always been extremely positive and optimistic, and I never allow outside distractions to influence that or affect that."