TEMPE, Ariz. -- In Milwaukee, Angels reliever LaTroy Hawkins had a locker right next to that of Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. So he, like many current and former teammates of the reigning National League MVP, was delighted that Braun's 50-game suspension was lifted on Thursday.
"My reaction? Cool. Good for them," Hawkins said Friday. "He just changed the landscape of that division. Him being out 50 games, that wouldn't have been good for them."
Despite the ruling, though, Hawkins is afraid Braun's name may never be fully cleared; that the link to him as a user of performance-enhancing substances will always linger in some circles.
Braun became the first Major Leaguer to successfully appeal a suspected violation of MLB's Drug Treatment and Prevention Program, thanks to a 2-1 ruling from a three-member panel.
It all started when the All-Star left fielder took a urine test during the Brewers' playoff run last October, and it was said to have contained a very high level of testosterone, a result ESPN first reported on in December.
While staying away from the media, Braun vehemently denied the charges. Then, during the hearing, multiple reports stated that Braun's attorneys called into question the chain of custody of the sample when it wasn't immediately sent in via FedEx, as required by the testing policy.
"By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibilities for my actions," Braun said at a press conference from the Brewers' Spring Training site in Phoenix on Friday. "I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point."
In 2011, Braun batted .332 with 33 homers, 111 RBIs and 33 stolen bases for the NL Central-champion Brewers, edging out Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp for the NL MVP.
Hawkins, who signed as a free agent with the Angels this offseason, doesn't believe those were tainted numbers.
"To me, I just saw one of the most impressive seasons I've ever been a part of," Hawkins said. "I was like, 'Wow.' I saw him work. I saw how hard he worked."