Brewers coming up empty in starter search

Since July 31, the Brewers have added three new bullpen arms in Claudio Vargas, Jesus Colome and David Weathers. But general manager Doug Melvin would really like to add a starter, and he’s coming up empty.

Melvin continued to work the phones on Tuesday, when the Brewers returned from a losing road trip 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central but just one game under .500. Dave Bush (triceps) and Jeff Suppan (oblique) each threw before Tuesday’s game but remain on the disabled list. 

Asked if he felt he had a chance to add another starter, Melvin said, “My gut feeling is probably not. There’s none that are necessarily available.”

Asked whether any pitchers of interest to the Brewers had cleared
waivers in recent days, Melvin responded vaguely, “Not anyone I want to
talk about.”

He was willing to talk about a handful of names that have churned through the rumor mill. John Smoltz is reportedly available after clearing waivers, but Melvin said the Brewers aren’t interested. They are wary of the negative reports about Vicente Padilla’s relationship with his former Rangers teammates that followed his departure from Texas. Reds right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang come with high salaries.

Injuries are the issue with other potantially-available arms. A’s right-hander Justin Duchscherer has a long medical history, perhaps too long for Milwaukee’s taste. Melvin talked to Greg Clifton, the agent for rehabbing left-hander Mark Mulder, about a month ago, and was told that Mulder was getting close to game shape. Similar reports emerged this week, but Melvin has yet to hear back from Clifton.

Melvin has not heard a word from Casey Close, the agent for right-hander Ben Sheets, who is working back from elbow surgery, and wondered whether Close’s silence is a sign that Sheets will not pitch in 2009.

“I think he would call clubs if [Sheets] were going to pitch, wouldn’t he?” Melvin wondered.

Even if Sheets or Mulder were available, Melvin would have to weigh his interest.

“It’s hard to put your eggs in the basket of a guy who hasn’t pitched,” Melvin said. “It didn’t work for Smoltz. It didn’t work for [Tom] Glavine. Guys that haven’t pitched in a year or two, you never know.”

If he’s unable to make any more deals, Melvin and the Brewers would have to count on Bush and/or Suppan contributing.

“If there’s nobody that’s available in a trade, you wait it out,” Melvin said. “If you were able to get somebody, you would have to decide about keeping [Bush and Suppan] on the DL until September because you have roster limitations. …

“If we could find a starting pitcher, we would consider it. They’re not out there. That’s why we went with the reliever route.”

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