Kendall to catch less in '09?

Jason Kendall led the Majors with 149 starts in 2009 including each of Milwaukee’s final 34 regular-season games. But if his new manager gets his way — and Major League managers tend to get just that — Kendall will spend a bit more time resting his knees in 2009.

Brewers skipper Ken Macha intends to pair his backup, probably Mike Rivera, with one of Milwaukee’s five starting pitchers in an effort to get Rivera more playing time while keeping Kendall fresh for key games at the end of the season. It will be a loose pairing, Macha stressed, and he knows he’ll get plenty of resistance from Kendall, who turns 36 in June.

“I could see him getting at least one day off a week, but he’s not going to be happy about it,” said Macha, who was Kendall’s manager in Oakland in 2005 and 2006. “It’s just too bad.”

Macha installed a similar set-up in 2006, when backup Adam Melhuse caught Esteban Loaiza’s early-season starts. But at some point, Loaiza asked for Kendall, and Kendall ended up starting 141 games that season. In 2005, Kendall started 146 games. He’s the only catcher in baseball to make at least 130 starts in each of the last seven seasons.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Macha said. “I don’t want to go down to the end of the year and have my catcher’s tongue dragging down on the ground. That would be nonproductive.”

Macha will make his decision during Spring Training, but he did say he may prefer to pair Rivera with one of the team’s veteran starters. That could rule out left-hander Manny Parra, though Rivera and Parra were paired often last season, and Rivera caught Parra’s perfect game for Triple-A Nashville in 2007.

Rivera was in the big leagues all of last season but, somewhat remarkably, he played in only 17 games and started only 13. He’s not exactly a huge drop-off; in just 62 at-bats over 21 games, Rivera batted .306 and drove in 14 runs.

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