Back up: Brewers OF Ryan Braun optimistic following surgery, endorses Stearns' rebuilding plan

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MILWAUKEE — Nearly two months after back surgery, Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun said he is feeling well and is optimistic that he will be back to 100 percent for spring training.

"The only surprise is the rehab is a little bit longer than I was anticipating," Braun said Wednesday at the team's annual holiday food drive at Miller Park. "Other than that, everything went as planned and as expected."

Braun had the procedure on Oct. 8 with the hopes of relieving a herniated disc in his back that caused him to miss 14 of the last 18 games of the season.

It put a damper on what had been a bounce-back season for the 31-year-old Braun, who hit .285 with 25 home runs, 84 RBI and 24 stolen bases. A nerve injury in his right hand hampered him the previous two seasons, and his 2013 season was also curtailed by a suspension.

Braun will be one of the few veteran players on the roster next season as the Brewers, under new general manager David Stearns, are moving into a rebuilding process. After jettisoning veterans Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers and Gerardo Parra last season, Braun will be the team's elder statesman when camp opens. He has fully endorsed Stearns' blueprint for the future.

"It's not like we're coming off a great year or great stretch of years and breaking up a juggernaut team," Braun said. "What we were doing wasn't working."

A 94-loss season was the Brewers' worst since 2004.

"I've had some really good conversations with David," he said. "I think he's going to do everything in his power to get us back to where we all want to be as soon as possible."

Next season marks the first under a five-year, $105 million contract extension Braun signed in 2011, making him one of the few Milwaukee players under contract beyond next season, and one of the few who could be around for the entire rebuilding process.

The trades did replenish the Brewers' farm system, especially in the outfield and on the mound.

"Obviously, we're going through a phase that we're rebuilding or re-tooling or whatever word you want to use but that could be a really quick thing," Braun said. "There's talent in the organization, a lot of prospects with really good upside.

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