After only two starts, veteran right-hander Jeff Suppan’s spot in the Brewers’ starting rotation is already under review.
Manager Ken Macha on Saturday wouldn’t commit to whether Suppan would remain in the rotation to start Wednesday’s game against the Pirates. If the team makes a change, Suppan and his $12.5 million salary would probably move to the bullpen.
“There’s been some discussion,” Macha said.
But as the conversation with reporters continued, Macha cautioned against assuming that a change was in the works, saying, “We’re making a lot of assumptions that something is going to happen.”
Suppan surrendered 10 hits and five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Cubs on Friday night. In two starts this season, he has been touched for 16 hits and nine earned runs in 9 1/3 innings. He’s in the final season of a four-year contract.
If Suppan is removed from the rotation he would be replaced by either left-hander Manny Parra or Chris Narveson. Both competed for the fifth starter’s spot during Spring Training but were passed over in favor of Suppan, who began the season on the disabled list with neck pain before an April 15 season debut against the Cubs.
Narveson didn’t allow a run in any of his Spring Training starts and Macha had particular praise on Saturday for Parra, who followed Suppan on Friday night with two scoreless innings. Parra walked one and threw a wild pitch but notched four strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit.
“I thought he threw the ball extremely well,” Macha said. “Good velocity, command was pretty good. It’s nice having that coming out of the bullpen. … I like the way Manny’s been throwing out of the bullpen. He did give up a couple of sharp hits in Washington, but besides that he’s been [effective].”
The Brewers would probably like to reach a decision by Sunday, when Suppan would throw his usual between-starts bullpen session. Considering the dollars involved, any decision would presumably include the highest levels of team management.
Suppan is not the only Milwaukee starter off to a somewhat tough start; entering his Saturday start against the Cubs, left-hander Doug Davis had yet to pitch past the fifth inning in any of his three outings. And the Brewers are not the only team mulling early-season changes; the Cubs just this week moved Opening Day starter Carlos Zambrano and his $91 million contract to the bullpen. Zambrano warmed up on Friday night in the Miller Park bullpen but didn’t pitch, and he was available behind starter Ted Lilly on Saturday.
“Every team enters the season with a certain plan, OK? And as the season goes on, things work their way out,” Macha said. “So [the Cubs] are trying to work it out. … Things work their way out, trust me. It’s just not our club. Other teams have problems, too, and try to utilize their assets to they can fill-in shortcomings in certain areas.”