Big-money Brewers?

Ryan Braun grinned. He had just agreed to the largest contract in Milwaukee Brewers history, with $45 million spread over eight years.

"I really believe in the direction this franchise is headed," the NL rookie of the year said yesterday, according to the Associated Press. "I'm extremely excited in our future."

Braun's contract, which runs through 2015, replaces the $455,000, one-year renewal the Brewers gave him in spring training. It includes a $2.3 million bonus this season and could increase to $51 million through escalators.

"How unreal is this?" said Braun's mother, Diane, who was looking on from the front row at Miller Park.

Braun, 24, hit .324 with 34 homers and 97 RBIs last season in 113 games after his May 25 debut. He hit his 10th homer in a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday and has 30 RBIs and a .286 average this season.

The deal surpasses the $42 million, four-year contract the Brewers gave free-agent pitcher Jeff Suppan before the 2007 season and is the longest contract in Brewers history.

Prior in for checkup

San Diego Padres pitcher Mark Prior was in Birmingham, Ala., yesterday to have his surgically repaired right shoulder examined by surgeon James Andrews.

The Padres will wait a few days before making a determination on the former Chicago Cubs ace, but it's doubtful that Prior will be able to return to the majors by San Diego's target date of June 1.

"We'll know more probably over the weekend or maybe into early next week about the plan for Mark as we move into the summer," manager Bud Black said, according to the AP.

When Prior felt discomfort in his shoulder at extended spring training in Arizona last week, he was sent back to San Diego for an MRI exam.

"It's frustrating for him," Black said. "I think he had high expectations and hopes bouncing back from the surgery, especially how he felt in spring training."

Prior, who is 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA in his career, last pitched in 2006, when he went 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA in nine games for the Cubs. He was the second overall pick of the 2001 amateur draft and went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in his first full year in the big leagues, finishing third in the Cy Young Award balloting.

Notable

Braves pitcher John Smoltz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that he could return from a right-shoulder injury within 10 days. Smoltz plans to come back as the closer. . . . The Brewers put reliever David Riske on the 15-day disabled list because of a hyperextended right elbow and purchased the contract of journeyman minor-league pitcher Mark DiFelice. . . . The San Francisco Giants placed righthander Merkin Valdez on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. . . . St. Louis Cardinals righthander Kyle Lohse, whose ERA has more than doubled in May after a 3-0 April, said that tightness in the back of his shoulder has made it difficult to get loose. Lohse skipped a bullpen session yesterday and cut short the bullpen session before his last start on Tuesday. But he said he'd be able to make his next start, on Sunday.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.