Branyan, Brewers fit perfectly together
Left-handed batter brings power, consistency to the plate
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was just one of those things. It made sense -- a fit for both sides. Manager Ned Yost attributed it to luck. Whatever the case may be, Russell Branyan's emergence as a dangerous left-handed bat in the lineup has been a boon for the Brewers.
In the offseason, Branyan convinced Brewers general manager Doug Melvin to give him a Minor League chance. The fit was obvious: Branyan was jobless and living in Nashville, the home to Milwaukee's Triple-A affiliate, and the Minor League club had a hole at third base.Branyan has turned into much more than filler for the Minor League squad. He has seized control of the third-base job for the Brewers and is a valuable left-handed bat for the club. "We got lucky there," Yost said. "It was a little bit of vision from Doug, seeing that you could have Russell in the system in case something happened. ... It just worked out." Branyan destroyed the ball in his brief stint with the Sounds -- batting .359 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in just 153 at-bats -- forcing the Brewers to give him a shot with the big league club. Bill Hall was struggling, and the club gave Branyan at-bats against right-handed pitchers in a platoon. "It was time," Yost said of the callup. "He was really doing well and Billy was struggling at the time against right-handed pitching. We needed another left-handed bat in our lineup, so we figured we'd give him a chance to see what he can do." He's done plenty. Branyan has continued to crush the ball with the Brewers, batting .289 with 11 home runs in only 89 at-bats. His .747 slugging percentage, while compiled in a small sample size, would lead the Majors by a comfortable margin if he had the requisite at-bats. "I know how this game is," Branyan said earlier this week. "I know I could have come up and landed flat on my face, then been back in the situation I've always been in, sitting on the bench and wondering when I'm going to play again. I'm fortunate to have been able to come up swinging the bat well in Triple-A and continue it here." Yost is perfectly willing to put up with Branyan's strikeout numbers -- he's whiffed 31 times in 83 at-bats in 2008 despite the hot start -- as long as he hits for power and gets on base. "You look at Russell's numbers in the past, the percentage of balls put in play, his batting average is extremely high," Yost said. "So it's putting the big numbers in play. He's made some adjustments and now he puts a lot more balls in play." That adjustment has given Branyan a stranglehold on a starting job with the Brewers. The club has reaped the benefits -- Milwaukee is 21-12 since Branyan made his debut with the team on May 25. "He's done a nice job," Yost said. "He's taken advantage of his opportunity."
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.