NEW YORK -- The Brewers posted a winning record in the wake of Ryan Braun's season-ending suspension (33-32 after Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Mets) but they will be a better team when he returns, manager Ron Roenicke said.
Barring injuries, the Brewers project a solid 2014 starting lineup that begins with right fielder Norichika Aoki, shortstop Jean Segura, Braun, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Carlos Gomez. Segura and Gomez were All-Stars in 2013, and Lucroy has had his best season of run production with 82 RBIs.
"There's going to be some things that happen with him, but it's a good thing [to get Braun back], a real good thing," Roenicke said. "If we get him back, and we get Aramis back healthy, we know we're good 3-4 [in the batting order]. 'Luc' fits in there because he's been hitting third all year, basically, since Braun has been out.
"To have those guys we know who can drive in runs, who are going to have good years, it's important for that consistency of being able to score runs. Not just one here, then six, then shut out. So if our pitching pitches the way we think they can, we should be in every game."
Braun is signed through at least 2020, and Ramirez was stating the obvious when he said a successful resurgence for Braun would be "important for him, for the team, for the franchise, for everybody. We need Brauny. He is the best player in here in this clubhouse. You need your best player to be out there."
Will Braun still be the Brewers' best player?
"I don't think there's a question," Ramirez said. "If you can play, you'll play," Ramirez said. "Obviously he made a mistake. He's going to have to prove he's good without it, but I think he's a good player. If you have talent, you're going to be a good player."
Roenicke reflects on Crew's trying season
NEW YORK -- The 2013 season was Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's 34th as a professional baseball player or coach -- and his most trying, he said.
As things came to an end on Sunday at Citi Field, was he feeling worn out?
"Surprisingly, no," Roenicke said. "Some of it you expect to have -- we had a little bit more of it this year -- but sometimes you like the adversity. The first year I was here, yeah, there was challenges, and I was trying to figure out things, but it went very well. Then last year we didn't start off well, but I think the adversity that challenges a manager -- I certainly felt like I had a lot this year, and it is a learning process.
"I think it will help me for what happens in the future. Hopefully we stay healthy, but if we don't we may have to go through another year like this. I think the more things that happen to you, the more you can figure out what the right way is to handle different situations, whether it's minor next year or major again."
Many of the issues were major, from Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo's arrest for drunk driving in April to injuries throughout the heart of the lineup to Ryan Braun's suspension in July.
"I don't want to say I enjoy the challenges, because nobody enjoys it," Roenicke said. "But I understand it does make me better at what I do, and I think sometimes it makes a player better in what he does."
Roenicke will be entering the final season of his contract in 2014, though the club holds an option for 2015.
Asked whether that would be addressed before the start of next season, general manager Doug Melvin said, "We haven't looked at that yet. That's a decision down the road."
Ramirez glad to finish season healthy
NEW YORK -- Aramis Ramirez gained some peace of mind when he stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter on Sunday. At least he could go into the offseason saying he was healthy.
He struck out in the Brewers' 3-2 loss to the Mets.
The steady Ramirez saw his season ruined by a sprained left knee. When he was hurt sliding into second base for a Spring Training double against the Angels in March, Ramirez was hopeful he'd have the injury behind him by Opening Day.
Instead, he was limited to batting .283 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 92 games, his lowest number of games since his 2009 season was shortened by a shoulder injury while with the Cubs.
After re-injuring the knee during a scuffle with the Braves on Wednesday, Ramirez told manager Ron Roenicke he wanted at least one more at-bat. He singled as a pinch-hitter on Saturday night against the Mets.
"I told him I wanted to do it before I went home," Ramirez said. "It's been tough for me and for the team. Even though we're playing pretty good lately, the goal was to be in the race."
Ramirez believes the Brewers "are not that far away" from returning to contention, even in a tough National League Central that is sending three teams to the postseason. Ramirez, who will earn $16 million next season in the final year of his contract, could be a significant part of a comeback.
"Aramis is big coming into next year," Roenicke said. "We saw when he was healthy last year, what he did for us. We saw when he wasn't healthy this year, and what happened."
Stolen base title slips away from Segura
NEW YORK -- After playing for the first time in 10 days on Saturday night, Jean Segura sat and watched on Sunday as the Mets' Eric Young Jr. swiped the National League's stolen base crown in the Brewers' 3-2 loss.
Segura and Young entered the day tied for the league lead with 44 steals, with Segura bidding to become the first Brewers player to lead the league in that category since Scott Podsednik in 2004. Young wasted no time, blooping a single in the first inning against Marco Estrada before stealing second base on the very next pitch.
For good measure, Young stole third, too.
"We wanted to get [Segura] out there, and we got him out there and he felt pretty good [Saturday]," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We just didn't really want to put him back out there today."
Carlos Gomez stole his 40th base in the second inning, extending his career high.