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A-Rod out, Braun back among 'Biogenesis Bunch'

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A-Rod out, Braun back among 'Biogenesis Bunch'
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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- When it comes to the ''Biogenesis Bunch,'' there's Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, and then everybody else.

Fourteen players were suspended last summer by Major League Baseball as part of the Biogenesis drug scandal, ranging from All-Stars to also-rans.

As a new season starts up, time to check on how they're doing.

Rodriguez is out for the year. So the A-Rod media circus will have to wait until 2015, assuming he returns.

That leaves Braun as the next most notable name on the list. He said he's sorry for getting into the mess and eager to compile the kind of stats that made him the 2011 NL MVP.

''I embrace the challenge that lies ahead,'' the Milwaukee slugger said upon reporting to spring training. ''I know it won't be easy, but I intend to do everything in my power to continue to be the best person and player I can be.''

After apologizing several times in the offseason, Braun returned to a corner locker customary for a top player. He has the strong support of manager Ron Roenicke.

Braun got off to a good start at the plate. He went into this week hitting .440 with two homers and five RBIs in 25 spring at-bats.

Even had a homer in his first spring at-bat.

''Not surprising. He's one of those guys, just a special athlete,'' Roenicke said after the Feb. 27 shot.

With Braun back to bolster a lineup that had Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy emerge last season, the Brewers hope to contend again in the NL Central.

St. Louis is the reigning division champ, and a 50-game suspension for shortstop Jhonny Peralta didn't prevent the team from signing him to a four-year, $53 million deal in the offseason. The discipline stemmed from an investigation into Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing substances.

A couple big leaguers were miffed.

''It pays to cheat... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use,'' Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler tweeted after the deal was announced in November.

Not a bad start in Cardinal red: Peralta was hitting over .300 with three homers this spring as of the beginning of the week.

''I know a lot of fans, they are going to talk,'' Peralta said when he reported to camp last month. ''They are going to say a lot of things. It's baseball. You need to forget about it and try to play baseball.''

Nelson Cruz's potent bat was enticing enough for the Orioles to bring the outfielder in as a free agent after his suspension while with Texas last year. Cruz is destined for the middle of Baltimore's lineup after hitting 26 homers last year.

In San Diego, shortstop Everth Cabrera has said his apologies to teammates. He was leading the National League with 37 stolen bases when his suspension started last August.

''He knew that he let his teammates down,'' Padres manager Bud Black said. ''I can't speak for everybody, but from what I've heard from some players, that was enough.''

Back at short and hitting .264 this spring with three steals as of Tuesday, Cabrera is set lead off again for Black.

Reliever Antonio Bastardo (Phillies) and backup catcher Francisco Cervelli (Yankees) are also back with their former teams, each signing one-year deals in the offseason.

Seattle's Jesus Montero isn't as lucky. Once a top catching prospect, he was moved to first, then demoted to minor league camp. He hit .310 but had reported to spring training overweight.

Among less notable players, outfield prospect Cesar Puello had also been optioned to minor league camp by the Mets and ex-Met Jordany Valdespin had signed a minor league deal in December with the Marlins.

At last check, lefty reliever Jordan Norberto had signed a minor league deal with the Rays.

Once-promising outfield prospect Fernando Martinez, who was traded from Houston to the Yankees last year, and relievers Fautino De Los Santos and Sergio Escalona are still waiting.

They apparently won't have a chance to immediately prove themselves, unlike Braun.

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

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AP freelance writer Mike Cranston in Phoenix contributed to this story.

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