Teammates react to Braun news

I’ve been talking to some of Ryan Braun’s teammates about news that he’s been spared a suspension and particularly interesting was left-hander Chris Narveson, the Brewers union representative. He was playing golf with fellow starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum when he got the news.

“It’s huge, getting a bat like that back in your lineup,” Narveson said. “This is what we thought we were going to get all along.”

Narveson declined to address what he knew about the specifics of Braun’s defense, but dismissed the idea that a technicality settled the case. He has a particular education on MLB’s testing policies because of his work with the union.

“If somebody mishandles a sample, that’s not just a technicality, that’s an error,” Narveson said. “I don’t know all of the details so I don’t want to comment too much. Put it this way: This isn’t the first time we’ve had issues with the people [in charge of testing] in Milwaukee. There have been other issues with timing.”

He added: “I would hope it forces stricter operating procedure. I said that even before the Braun situation in Milwaukee. It’s a matter of doing things the right way. It just takes one person who has an ulterior motive to mess things up.”

Reaction from other Brewers:

Right fielder Corey Hart, who has been in touch with Braun throughout the process: “It stinks when you know a lot and can’t say a lot. It was frustrating [for Braun]. 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.”

I asked Hart what this means 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.”

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.

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