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01/07/12 9:18 PM EST

Braun reportedly will learn fate before camp

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers will know before the start of Spring Training whether Ryan Braun will be their left fielder on Opening Day, according to a report.

Braun is appealing a suspension under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and he and attorney David Cornwell will get to make a case before a panel of arbiters before the end of this month. That three-member panel would then hand down its verdict well before Brewers pitchers and catchers report to Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix on Feb. 18, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The hearing is not tied to Braun's scheduled appearance at a Baseball Writers' Association of America function in New York on Jan. 21, according to the newspaper. It would be Braun's first public appearance since ESPN reported in mid-December that he faced as much as a 50-game suspension.

If the suspension holds, Braun could participate with the Brewers in Spring Training but would miss the start of the season. If it's overturned, it would be business as usual.

Braun is the reigning National League MVP after batting .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 2011. He is even more important to the Brewers' lineup in 2012 because slugging first baseball Prince Fielder is a free agent.

Brewers officials have said they are in standby mode regarding the process, which is supposed to remain secret until after a player's appeal. MLB officials and representatives for Braun have said little since news of his test broke in mid-December.

"We're planning that Ryan is going to be there, and if he isn't, it's kind of Plan B," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Milwaukee's 1250-AM WSSP this week. "Which is kind of the same way you do it during the season with an injury. You plan on going with your guys, and if somebody goes down, you have to be deep enough ... that you are able to fill in with somebody who you feel can do a good job.

"That's why [general manager] Doug [Melvin] and his crew upstairs, when they look at what we need on the bench, they're thinking, 'Hey, if somebody goes down at this position, we have to be covered not just for a game or two, but covered in case somebody goes down for a month or whatever.'"

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.