No surprise here: Yovani Gallardo will be the Brewers’ Opening Day starter for the second straight season.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made it official on Thursday that Gallardo will pitch the team’s March 31 opener in Cincinnati. The choice had been widely expected since the news earlier this week that Zack Greinke would begin the year on the disabled list with a cracked rib.
Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf will pitch the final two games of the season-opening series against the Reds in that order, and left-hander Chris Narveson will handle the April 4 home opener against the Braves.
“I don’t want to say we lost our ace and now Gallardo’s going in, because Gallardo was also our ace,” Roenicke said. “He was excited. He doesn’t get excited like the other guys, but he had a grin on his face and he was happy on it.”
Gallardo, 25, also started the team’s 2010 opener and lost to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies. Gallardo worked seven innings that day and allowed three earned runs, a quality start to a season in which he’d go 14-7 with a 3.84 ERA and make his first National League All-Star team.
Until Greinke was hurt in an early-Spring Training pick-up basketball game, Roenicke faced something of a dilemma with the Opening Day honor. On one hand there was Gallardo, the incumbent and a home-grown Brewer, but on the other hand was Greinke, the team’s prized off-season pick-up and 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner. Greinke was probably the favorite for the opener even after he took a spill on the basketball court, but after making two spring starts with sore ribs he underwent an MRI scan that revealed a hairline fracture of the seventh rib on his left side and a bruise on his eighth rib.
The Brewers’ season-opening series is March 31-April 3, with an off-day built into the schedule in case of an Opening Day rainout. Then the Brewers return home for a seven-game homestand, beginning with four-game series against the Braves at Miller Park.
When Greinke was still in the mix, Roenicke toyed the idea of splitting the two left-handers — Wolf and Narveson. But with only four healthy starters, the schedule did it for him, at for the first two series against the Reds and Braves. Wolf and Narveson will face the Cubs in back-to-back games April 8-9.
“They’re different-type lefties, so it’s not like you’re throwing the same prototype out there again,” Roenicke said.
Roenicke said the club considered several options that would have had someone else working the home opener but in the end felt comfortable with Narveson, who is entering a Major League season as a member of the starting rotation for the first time. He was 12-9 with a 4.99 ERA in 28 starts and nine relief appearances last season.
“It’s an important game to us,” Roenicke said. “We feel comfortable with ‘Narvey’ doing the [home] opener. He’s not going to be rattled.”
The Brewers will need a fifth starter on April 5 or 6, depending on whether Gallardo comes back on regular rest for his second regular-season start or takes an extra day. For now, that fifth man is a mystery, though the Brewers are leaning toward picking from a pool that includes prospects Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta and Amaury Rivas.
Because of off-days, the club could get through the first week of the season using a fifth starter only three times — April 6, 16 and 26.