PHOENIX -- A family history of colon cancer led Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez to have a colonoscopy during the offseason, and it turned into a wise preventative measure.
Ramirez, 35, reported to Maryvale Baseball Park in time for the Brewers' first full-squad workout on Saturday but will not be quite ready to play when Cactus League games begin next week. He underwent arthroscopic surgery in early January to remove a non-malignant polyp.
"I just wanted to do it because my dad died of colon cancer," said Ramirez, whose father, Victor, was 61 when he passed away. "I wanted to get checked out because usually it's a family thing. Sure enough, I didn't have cancer, but I had a polyp."
Ramirez and his doctors knew right away the growth was benign. He had the surgery in Miami and was told to expect an eight-week recovery.
"I don't know how many [Spring Training] games I'll miss," Ramirez said. "Hopefully it's not many."
The experience was scary, he said, "because I never had surgery before. That was my first one and hopefully my last one."
Ramirez was able to take part in batting practice Saturday and said he can field grounders and run the bases, but he will play it safe until he feels 100 percent. The sprained left knee that limited him to 92 games in 2013 was fully healed long before Ramirez had his colon surgery.
He is entering the final guaranteed season of his three-year contract with the Brewers. The deal includes a mutual option for 2015.
"I can't wait to get back," Ramirez said. "Last year was a tough year, as you guys know. I didn't play much -- 90, 91, 92 games. That's not what I get paid for. I should be out there at least 140, 145, 150 games. Hopefully I can do that this year.
"It's hard to play when you're not 100 percent. When you're playing on one leg, it's a lot harder. Like I say, if I'm healthy, everything should be OK."
Attanasio fine with Brewers being underdogs
PHOENIX -- Brewers owner Mark Attanasio does not mind at all if outsiders consider his club an underdog in the competitive National League Central.
"That's what makes for a race, right?" Attanasio told reporters after addressing the team ahead of its first full-squad workout on Saturday. "It's a better position to be in that we're kind of underdogs. That doesn't bother me at all.
"Our overall perception is that other teams in the division got weaker and we got stronger. We'll see if that's true, but we clearly got stronger."
Attanasio is entering his 10th season as the Brewers' principal owner, with two postseason appearances under his belt and high hopes for another in 2014. He authorized the club-record-setting $50 million investment in free-agent starter Matt Garza that will push the Brewers' payroll over $100 million for the second time in three seasons. This year, Attanasio confirmed, the Brewers will spend more money on players than ever before.
"One of the things I talked to the players about -- a bunch of the guys know me and a bunch don't -- was that my career was in investing, and we got to own a baseball team by not making too many bad investment decisions. This year, we decided to invest in the team because we decided we had talent."
Other topics covered by Attanasio in his annual "state of the team" address:
• On whether he's confident that his investment in Ryan Braun will pay off in the end:
"We've always looked at it as a team sport," Attanasio said. "When we decided to do the contract with Ryan it wasn't something about being face of the franchise. It was about being a very high-caliber player. Ryan does take his responsibilities seriously, both to the team and the community. I think he has taken steps to win back everybody's support and he knows he's got to continue to take those steps. Just like the baseball season is a marathon, his winning back the trust and support of the community is something that's going to take some time. I think he's up to the task."
• On whether the explosion of local television contracts is changing the game:
"It's changing the competitive dynamic of the game, there's no doubt," he said. "Competitive balance is something that everybody is going to have to pay attention to. There's a pretty big spread now in terms of media cash flows that wasn't there five years ago, [but] the sport last year had more competitive balance than any other league, even the NFL. If you look back over several years with which teams have been in the playoffs and the number and mix of the teams in the playoffs, last year for example having the Pirates coming in was great. So, we'll see going forward how much that impacts our sport. We do have several new rules in the last [Collective Bargaining Agreement] which help competitive balance, chief of which were around the Draft. More and more, you see the need to have talented, young players.
• On the future of Miller Park:
"Last night, [Brewers COO] Rick Schlesinger and I and a group had dinner, and we talked about how it's a very low interest rate environment where maybe we can do a bond financing where maybe we can winterize Miller Park and continue to upgrade what we have. It's a unique resource for us. It's something we want to continue to put money into even if you can't see an immediate payback. … The way I look at it, don't worry about the revenues, keep spending on the park because it's a real resource for us. We'll figure out how to make good use of it.
"Last year we had the Paul McCartney concert there, it was very special. Sir Paul asked the crowd where they were from and there were as many people from out of town as there was from Milwaukee. We're able to bring people to our city by having that stadium. Well before I got here, Bud and Wendy Selig and their family were really instrumental in getting the park built. It's just a great resource for the city."
• Despite recent unrest in Venezuela, Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez remains scheduled to meet with officials at the U.S. consulate on Wednesday to acquire a work visa. Milwaukee officials hope to see him in camp 24-48 hours later.
"My understanding is that if you don't already have an appointment, you might be in trouble," assistant general manager Gord Ash said.
• Veteran left-hander Zach Duke stood out to Brewers coaches in the first round of live batting-practice sessions this week. Duke is a non-roster invitee bidding for a bullpen job.
"He's got better stuff than you think he does," manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's really 'live.' He's got good movement, he's got a real nice breaking ball. So he's doing what he can to show us pretty early on what's going on. But I don't want to make any evaluations when we're this early."
• The Brewers are planning to play a three-inning intrasquad game on Tuesday at Maryvale Baseball Park.