Gallardo gets Game 1 nod

Three years ago, Yovani Gallardo was a 22-year-old barely back from knee surgery when he pitched the Brewers’ first postseason game in a generation. This time, he’s much better prepared for a Game 1 assignment.

Manager Ron Roenicke on Tuesday officially named Gallardo his starter for the opening game of the National League Division Series on Saturday, though the Brewers still did not know who they would be playing, or where.

Wherever he takes the mound, Gallardo said he would be ready.

“In ’08, after missing the whole year and getting that opportunity to start Game 1, it was good, but it was a lot going on, Gallardo said. “This year, I’ve battled with the team the whole year. That makes a lot of difference.”

Gallardo himself was surprised when then-manager Dale Sveum tabbed him for Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS against the Phillies. The Brewers were in a bind, having clinched the NL Wild Card on the final day of the season behind CC Sabathia, and Gallardo was deemed the best option even though he had made only one start, spanning four innings, after undergoing surgery in May to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

Compare that to 2011, when Gallardo leads the Brewers in wins (17), innings (207 1/3), strikeouts (207) and pitched the team’s only complete game. He enters the postseason on a hot streak, with a 1.77 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 20 1/3 innings over his final three regular-season starts. He was on the mound Friday, when the Brewers clinched the NL Central.

Gallardo pitched twice in the ’08 postseason, also appearing in relief in Game 4 of the NLDS. The Brewers fell to the eventual World Champion Phillies, three games to one.

That experience, Gallardo figures, will aid the Brewers this time around.

“The first time is always tough,” he said. “You want to look at it as just another regular-season game, but yet there’s a lot more excitement and adrenaline. Having experienced that before, it’s going to help.

“I’m going to just focus on the game,” he said. “That’s the goal. Obviously, it’s going to be exciting for all of us, but I just need to do what I’ve been doing all year.”

Gallardo threw a simulated game on Tuesday to help cover the gap between his starts. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday.

The Brewers’ plan for the rest of the NLDS depended on the outcome of their games Tuesday and Wednesday, when Zack Greinke will start. If the Brewers have clinched the No. 2 seed before Wednesday’s game, when Greinke will pitch only a few innings against the Pirates and would start Game 2 of the NLDS. If the Brewers need a win Wednesday to clinch the second seed, which comes with home field advantage in the first round, then Greinke would pitch as usual, and would not be available until Game 3.

If the latter scenario plays out, then right-hander Shaun Marcum would start Game 2. That would leave left-hander Randy Wolf for Game 4.


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