April 05, 2015

Ryan Braun is back in the Milwaukee Brewers' lineup. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy returnees for the Colorado Rockies.

Both teams have been wondering all spring how they would fare with their full teams on the field when the real games begin. It's time to find out.

Opening day is Monday at Miller Park. The Rockies' Kyle Kendrick is scheduled to start against the Brewers' Kyle Lohse.

Braun is looking to regain his 2011 NL MVP form following surgery to fix a lingering nerve injury near his right thumb.

Manager Ron Roenicke remains cautiously optimistic. Braun got off to a slow start in the spring, but he has been raking the last few weeks to finish at .395 with three homers.

''I don't know how we're going to be a month from now. He's been swinging the bat great which is very nice,'' Roenicke said.

The hot bats to end the spring are a contrast to what the offense was like when the Brewers were last seen in Milwaukee. A team-wide offensive slump in September dropped the Brewers from first place to out of the playoffs.

Consistency is important. There's a new hitting coach, too, in Darnell Coles.

But once again, keeping players healthy might be the most important factor.

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez turns 36 in June, and Roenicke hopes to keep him healthy in what could be his final season. Adam Lind seems to have bounced from a lingering back issue.

All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy looks as if he is over a hamstring injury that limited him in late February and early March to finish with a team-high five homers in spring training.

''So if there was a number-one thing, it was health and we've had that. We've been fortunate to this point,'' Roenicke said.

The Rockies hope to stay just as fortunate all year long.

The smooth-fielding Tulowitzki has spent various stints on the disabled list over his career. Last season, he played in just 91 games before undergoing hip surgery.

''You guys watch me play and you guys judge for yourself,'' he said when asked about his health. ''I'm not going to sit here and say anything.''

He answered at the plate, where he hit .381 with five homers and 12 RBIs this spring.

Gonzalez hit .310 with one homer in 16 spring games. The outfielder was limited to 70 game last season because of surgery to remove a small tumor in his left index finger and then another on his left knee.

''Mentally, I feel really good to go. And physically, things are going fine. I feel like I can take extra bases,'' Gonzalez said.

Pitching could be a problem - again - for Colorado. Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa has a groin injury, and the team released Jhoulys Chacin. The Rockies may need top prospect Eddie Butler - and eventually minor leaguer Jon Gray - to step up for a chance to avoid a fifth straight losing season.

At least the infield defense will be rock-solid again with Tulowitzki and third baseman Nolan Arenado anchoring the left side.

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver, and AP freelance writers Jerry Brown and Mike Cranston contributed to this story.

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