PHOENIX -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart was in the backyard of his Valley-area home when he found out that Ryan Braun will be across the outfield on Opening Day at Miller Park."I was doing cartwheels out there," Hart said. Braun on Thursday won his appeal of a suspension under MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, a boost to a Brewers team that lost first baseman Prince Fielder over the winter and had fretted for months about losing Braun, the reigning National League MVP, for the first 50 games. In a statement issued by the Brewers on Thursday evening, chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio stated his support for Braun, but also for Major League Baseball's testing program. "Since joining our organization in 2005, Ryan Braun has been a model citizen and a person of character and integrity. Knowing Ryan as I do, I always believed he would succeed in his appeal," Attanasio said. "I also want to reiterate my support for Major League Baseball's strict substance testing program. It is unfortunate that the confidentiality of the program was compromised, and we thank our fans and everyone who supported Ryan and did not rush to judgment.
"The team is looking forward to seeing Ryan in camp tomorrow. With this now behind us, we return our focus to the ballpark and defending our NL Central Division title."Braun's teammates had already left Maryvale Baseball Park when the news broke just after 3 p.m. local time. Four-fifths of the Brewers' starting rotation -- Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson -- were together on the golf course. "It's huge, getting a bat like that back in your lineup," said Narveson, who's had particular interest in the Braun case, because he is the Brewers' union representative. "This is what we thought we were going to get all along." Hart said he had been in touch with Braun through the process, which began with a urine test during the Brewers' October postseason run and went public in December, when ESPN reported that Braun faced a suspension. The longtime teammates spoke on the telephone after Braun's good news broke. "It stinks when you know a lot and can't say a lot. It was frustrating [for Braun]," Hart said. "I knew the different scenarios and what actually happened, and I wanted to scream just like he does. You have to bite your tongue and wait for it, and I'm very happy it came out the way it did. He's such an important part of our organization and our city." What does this one decision mean for the Brewers' chances in the NL Central? "Prince was there as long as I have been, but Braun has been our best player three of the last four years," Hart said. "He's been the guy that carried us when we need somebody. We would have found guys to carry the load, but to actually have him for a whole year is going to make us that much more dangerous. "I actually think this is going to make him that much more driven and motivated. If I were a pitcher, I would not want to face him this year." Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, a vocal Braun supporter over the winter, argued that "the correct decision has been made." "We all expected this to happen," Lucroy said. "I believed him the whole time. I'm glad this decision has been made and we can move on. We've got one of the best hitters in the world back in our lineup." Another MVP and good friend of Braun's -- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- joined the list of those chiming in on Twitter.
"MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man," Rodgers tweeted. "Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated."
A big winner Thursday was Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who had gotten most of his information on Braun's status via media reports. Because of the confidentiality built into the testing program, clubs are kept mostly in the dark.Melvin gambled on Braun winning his case and spent on only one free-agent outfielder, Japanese import Norichika Aoki. The Brewers considered others, including veterans Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui, but Aoki should provide much more flexibility as a defensive player and bench bat. "We didn't want to overreact, because we really did trust Ryan," said Melvin, who made clear he supports MLB's testing policy. "I know the kind of person he is, I know his work ethic, I trust him a lot. I felt that we didn't want to go overboard with adding a lot of pieces to the ballclub. We gambled, maybe, a little bit in that regard. But we weren't kept up to date, and as each day went on approaching positional players reporting, I was hoping that a decision would come soon." Braun will report to Brewers camp on Friday. The team's first full-squad workout is Saturday. "He might be the first one there," Hart said.