Braun Will Be Ready For Opener

Braun OK?

University of Miami sophomore shortstop Ryan Braun, the 2003 National Freshman Player of the Year after leading the Hurricanes in six offensive categories last season, is recovering from a right elbow injury that prevented him from throwing or hitting the first week and a half of practice.

UM coach Jim Morris said that Braun should be ready for the team's season-opener against Florida Feb. 13. Braun was scheduled to start 'swinging the bat' on Thursday, according to Morris.

"Ryan's elbow has been bothering him since the fall. We got him checked up with Dr. Uribe and put him on a monitored throwing program, but it's nothing serious," said Morris. "Knowing Ryan the way I do, the kind of player he is, I don't have a reason to believe he won't be out there against the Gators."

Braun has been participating in intrasquad games this week although he only fielded batted balls. The 6-2, 177-pounder, who was named the Hurricanes starting shortstop early in camp last January, was the Hurricanes top power hitter and run-producer from a year ago and losing him for any amount of time would be a damaging blow to Miami's offense. Braun had team-highs in homeruns (17), RBIs (74), slugging percentage (.665), hits (88), total bases (161) and batting average (.364). Despite being a first-year collegiate player a season ago Braun developed a flair for the dramatic with three game-winning homeruns, including a bottom of the ninth blast to beat NC State 10-9 in game one of the Super Regionals. "Obviously we need his stick in the line-up," said Morris. If Braun isn't ready to start the season Morris said junior Paco Figueroa could replace him in the starting lineup with sophomore Gaby Sanchez also a candidate to fill the position.

STILL UNDECIDED

The only question facing the Hurricanes seems to be who will start in left field - and Morris is still undecided on which player will get the nod. Morris said that Paco Figueroa, Brandon Katin and freshman Jon Jay are all still in the mix for the job. Katin has shown plenty of power in batting practice, but has struggled defensively. Jay had a strong fall and has also impressed the coaching staff with his speed and defensive skills. Richard Giannotti will start in right field with Brian Barton in center field, according to Morris. Katin and Giannotti have been battling hamstring pulls, while Barton has been hobbled by an Achilles tendon injury.

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