Minor League right-hander Marco Estrada made a strong bid for a spot in Milwaukee’s April pitching rotation on Tuesday, when he held the Padres scoreless on three singles over 4 1/3 innings at Maryvale Baseball Park. He struck out four, walked one and received lots of high-fives after reaching the dugout from teammates who well-know that the Brewers need somebody to step up.
The 27-year-old Estrada, who pitched briefly for the Brewers last season, is among a handful of internal candidates to make April starts in place of Zack Greinke, who will begin the regular season on the disabled list with a cracked rib.
Estrada would rather not think about that competition.
“I’m trying not to, too much,” he said. “I’m trying to go out and do all of my lifts, throw the ball, stay in shape, keep my head down and work hard. If it happens, great. I’ll be the happiest guy in the world. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep busting my butt and get up there eventually.”
The Brewers need a fifth starter on April 6, and then again April 16 and 26 if Greinke remains sidelined.
Estrada is not even a member of big-league camp, but started Tuesday’s “A” game against the Padres in place of 21-year-old prospect Wily Peralta, who recorded only one out against the Rockies last week and was shifted to a Minor League game instead.
“It felt great, especially being able to start over there. That’s what I love to do,” said Estrada, who had already returned to the club’s Minor League complex by the time reporters tracked him down. “I felt good out there. I felt confident and I threw strikes.”
Manager Ron Roenicke will confer with pitching coach Rick Kranitz before finalizing the rotation for the final week of Spring Training, but guessed that Estrada will get another “A” game start.
“[Kranitz] liked the way he pitched,” Roenicke said. “His change-up was good, he had nice movement on his fastball and he threw some breaking balls that were pretty nice, too. We know he throws strikes. That’s what he did for [the Brewers] last year. We know he has experience with a couple of games, so he shouldn’t freak out.
“He’s definitely a possibility.”