By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published Mar 10, 2017 at 12:13 PM

OnMilwaukee ventured to the Valley of the Sun with The Big 920 (WOKY) to cover a different side of Brewers Spring Training and find the fun, unique angles – on and off the field in Phoenix – that make the bucket-list trip such a memorable experience for Wisconsin fans. Play ball!

PHOENIX – Ryan Braun has said in the past that he doesn’t need to play much in spring training to be ready for the regular season. But the Brewers' star outfielder still has to play a little bit.

After sitting out all of the Cactus League action so far this year, Braun is finally going to make his spring debut today as Milwaukee hosts the Chicago White Sox in a split-squad game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Braun seemed to be in good spirits before the game, joking with teammates while stretching, laughing off a dropped throw during warmups – initially blaming it on a broken glove he ultimately decided was not broken – and spraying line drives around the field in batting practice.

The veteran holdover will start in left field and hit third in the lineup. He’s expected to get a couple of at-bats.

Manager Craig Counsell said the team had planned long ahead that Friday would be the day for Braun’s debut, and the 33-year-old will do more and more as the exhibition season continues and Opening Day – April 3 against the Rockies at Miller Park – approaches.

"He’s ready to go," Counsell said. "I’m confident we’ve given him enough time, more than enough time, really."

In spring training last year, Braun appeared in only seven games and went 7 for 16 with a double, two home runs and a pair of walks. He batted .305 with 30 homers, 91 RBI and a .903 OPS in 135 games in the regular season.

Another notable name in Milwaukee’s lineup Friday was that of 20-year-old Isan Diaz, who will start at shortstop and hit ninth against the White Sox in his first major-league spring training game.

Diaz hit .264 with 20 home runs and 75 RBI for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2016, winning the Brewers organization’s Minor League Player of the Year award and being selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League.

Counsell was asked Friday if he was looking forward to seeing Diaz play with the big-league club.

"Yeah, you know, it’s not a tryout or anything, it’s just to give him an opportunity," Counsell said. "He had an illness for about a week that kind of set him back a little bit, so it’s just because he’s healthy and ready to get going."

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.