By GENARO C. ARMAS
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun hit a three-run homer in his first action at Miller Park since his doping suspension, but Milwaukee lost 5-4 to the Kansas City Royals in an exhibition game Friday night.
Braun’s homer traveled 409 feet over the wall near straightaway center, giving Milwaukee a two-run lead in the third. The hometown crowd showered Braun with overwhelming applause.
The 2011 National League MVP went 2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs. He’s now hitting .412 this spring.
“I feel pretty good, seeing the ball well,” he said. “The key for me is always trying to swing at strikes.”
It was Braun’s first appearance in a game at Miller since striking out as a pinch hitter on July 21. He was suspended the next day for the remainder of the 2013 season, covering 65 games.
The Royals rallied in a three-run fourth inning that was extended following an error by third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Billy Butler added a solo drive for Kansas City in the fifth.
Salvador Perez doubled and scored twice for Kansas City. The catcher is just fine after getting hit in the head with a pitch in his last game Wednesday against the Padres.
Perez’s double came off a blooper down the right-field line for Braun’s first chance Friday at his new position. He fielded it cleanly after the ball fell out of reach.
Braun moved from left to right field after Milwaukee traded Norichika Aoki to Kansas City in the offseason for left-handed reliever Will Smith.
“Ryan asked me about playing right field but, no, I didn’t have much advice for him,” Aoki said through an interpreter. “I told him he’s talented and he would be fine.”
Braun looks as if he’s in midseason form at the plate, though manager Ron Roenicke said before the game there could be lingering issues from the right hand injury that also bothered the slugger last season.
“Time to time it will probably flare up, but he should be fine,” Roenicke said.
Braun has apologized several times in the offseason for the doping suspension, and has vowed to become one of the top hitters in the game again.
Royals: Braun had the only two hits off left-handed starter Jason Vargas, Kansas City’s big free-agent pitching acquisition in the offseason. Vargas went three innings with two walks and a strikeout in his final spring tuneup.
Vargas had a good spring after entering the night with a 2.14 ERA.
“He lost his command a little bit late, giving up the two walks and then a pitch up to Braun,” manager Ned Yost said. “Besides that, I was pleased with his effort, too.”
Brewers: Like Vargas, Matt Garza was a big free-agent grab for his team. He allowed four runs and six hits in 3 2-3 innings with two walks and a strikeout. Two runs were unearned following Ramirez’s error.
Garza finished the spring with an 8.80 ERA, though he said he feels ready for first regular-season start Wednesday against Atlanta. The veteran said his timing and mechanics were a little off, but he felt the problem was a quick fix.
Royals: Second baseman Omar Infante stayed behind at the team’s spring complex in Arizona as he tries to get over an elbow injury. It was unclear whether he would be ready for the team’s season opener Monday at Detroit.
Brewers: Jean Segura said his sore right shoulder is feeling better, though it’s unclear whether the All-Star shortstop will be ready when Milwaukee’s regular season begins Monday against the Braves.
A bad day on the golf course this spring left Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler with a new job Friday night.
Kintzler had to serve as a team batboy after losing a bet over a round of golf to teammate Kyle Lohse, who cruised to an 11-stroke victory.
Garza didn’t waste a chance to poke fun and put Kintzler to work.
“It was just the ball was scuffed, I had to get rid of it, so didn’t want to throw a dirty ball,” Garza deadpanned. “That’s about it.”