Brewers’ Ryan Braun has reported to spring training

Ryan Braun

PHOENIX (AP) — Cleared to play, Ryan Braun spent his first moments at spring training addressing his Brewers teammates.

The NL MVP reported to camp Friday, one day after his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned by an arbitrator.

Braun arrived at Milwaukee’s facility at about 9:40 a.m. walking through the complex’s front doors to avoid reporters and camera crews waiting in back at the clubhouse entrance. Braun kissed his girlfriend before joining his teammates, many of whom had wondered whether he would have to serve his suspension for testing positive in October for elevated testosterone.

Braun first met with manager Ron Roenicke, who said he suggested that star outfielder also meet privately with Milwaukee’s players.

“He’s been talking to me all winter, so we know what’s going on,” Roenicke said. “But they needed to hear it. With the outcome of it, I don’t think he needed to explain anything, but I think he wanted to and the players probably appreciated it, so I thought it was great.”

Braun, who hit .332 with 33 homers and 111 RBIs last year, is the first Major League Baseball player to have his suspension lifted by an arbitrator for a drug-related penalty.

His suspension hung over the NL Central champion Brewers all winter, and Roenicke was relieved to know he’ll have Braun in his lineup from Day One. Milwaukee lost slugger Prince Fielder to free agency and couldn’t be afford to be without their other big bat for too long.

“We’re a lot better,” Roenicke. “Really, that’s what it comes down to. This is not just a great player but he’s a guy who we need in our clubhouse and we need him in the locker room. His presence means a lot. All of us have been waiting to hear one way or the other what was going to happen. We were certainly hoping this was the outcome.”

Roenicke is confident Braun will be able to handle any criticism from fans who believe he may have been cleared on a technicality.

“He’s happy and he’s happy to have it over with,” Roenicke said. “He’ll be fine. He gets it. He understands what it’s going to be like. His character was in question this winter and I don’t think his character will be in question again.”

Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez is pleased Braun was cleared and doesn’t think his teammate needs to apologize.

“I don’t think he owes anything to anybody,” he said. “I believe, it’s not like I’m taking his side, but the people that have to explain what exactly happened is the ones in charge about the test result.

“Once again, he proved he didn’t take anything illegal.”

Arbitrator Shyam Das threw out Braun’s ban on Thursday. Das, who has been baseball’s independent arbitrator since 2000, informed the sides of his decision but did not give them a written opinion. He has 30 days to do so.

MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management “vehemently disagrees” with Das’ decision.

Braun will speak to media on the field starting around noon. CLICK HERE to view a live stream of that event.

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