After one final staff meeting on Sunday morning, the Brewers set their 25-man Opening Day roster. There were no surprises.
Four players still officially on the big league camp roster — pitcher Chris Smith, catcher Martin Maldonado, infielder Taylor Green and outfielder Adam Stern — will begin the season in the Minor Leagues, leaving 25 active players to face the Colorado Rockies beginning Monday afternoon at Miller Park.
“I think that as a group, we’re ready to go,” said catcher Gregg Zaun, one of Milwaukee’s hottest spring hitters.
Here is the breakdown:
Pitchers (12): Dave Bush, Todd Coffey, Doug Davis, Yovani Gallardo, LaTroy Hawkins, Trevor Hoffman, Chris Narveson, Manny Parra, Mitch Stetter, Claudio Vargas, Carlos Villanueva, Randy Wolf.
Catchers (2): George Kottaras, Gregg Zaun.
Infielders (6):Craig Counsell, Alcides Escobar, Prince Fielder, Joe Inglett, Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks.
Outfielders (5): Ryan Braun, Jim Edmonds, Jody Gerut, Carlos Gomez, Corey Hart.
Four other players will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list: Pitchers Josh Butler, David Riske and Jeff Suppan and infielder Mat Gamel.
The Brewers’ final decision essentially was made on Tuesday, when Suppan was placed on the DL with a neck injury. He had been vying with left-handers Narveson and Parra for the fifth starter spot, and with Suppan out of the mix the club was able to keep both Narveson and Parra on the Opening Day roster.
Health was something of a question for veterans Zaun (quadriceps) and Edmonds (hamstring), but both players proved by playing Saturday’s exhibition against the Tigers that they were fit enough for Opening Day and will be active on Monday afternoon. Zaun figures to start behind the plate, but as of Saturday evening, Brewers manager Ken Macha had yet to decide officially whether Edmonds, Hart or perhaps Gerut would man right field against Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies.
Asked when he would make that decision, Macha replied, “probably 10 a.m. on Monday.” Gallardo is scheduled to throw the season’s first pitch at 1:10 p.m. CT.
Assuming Hart makes his fourth consecutive Opening Day start, Edmonds will join a Brewers bench much longer on experience than in years past. Counsell, Edmonds, Gerut and Inglett have combined to play 4,093 Major League games, with Inglett the least experienced of the group at 211 games. Even Kottaras has some big league experience, with 48 games under his belt.
That’s a change from last season, when Counsell was the Brewers’ only extra man with extensive experience. McGehee had only a September call-up on his resume at the time, and he certainly panned out. But outfielders Chris Duffy and Brad Nelson did not, combining to start the season 4-for-53 at the plate and prompting changes.
“I think looking at what happened to us in April last year with Chris Duffy and Nelly, [Brewers general manager Doug Melvin] probably looked for some guys who are used to sitting on the bench,” Macha said.
Flexibility was the key to the Brewers’ choices. Counsell can play anywhere on the infield, and while Inglett is primarily a second baseman, he proved in Spring Training that he’s versatile elsewhere on the infield and in the outfield corners. Edmonds and Gerut are capable of playing all three outfield spots.
“Most of the guys on the bench are semi-regulars,” Melvin said. “In the case that we had an injury, they probably could play that regular role. Looking at that, we are more experienced and deeper, I guess.”
In the bullpen, Macha will also have options. With Narveson and Parra beginning the year in relief, the Brewers could turn to one of those left-handers early in games and save Stetter for tougher situations later on. Narveson and Parra also give Macha multiple long relievers, and right-handers Villanueva and Vargas are also capable of working more than one inning.
The next big decision won’t come until next week, when the Brewers plan to use a fifth starter for the first time. Suppan remains in the running, assuming he’s ready to return from the DL, along with Narveson and Parra. The winner of that derby will probably debut on April 14 or 15 against the Cubs, though the Brewers don’t actually <i>need</i> a fifth starter until April 18 at Washington.