March 2012

Brewers lineup, rotation looks set

Barring something unforeseen during the Brewers’ Cactus League slate, manager Ron Roenicke has set his Opening Day lineup.

Roenicke debuted it for an intrasquad game at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday. The lineup card had second baseman Rickie Weeks leading off, followed by center fielder Nyjer Morgan, left fielder Ryan Braun, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, right fielder Corey Hart and then the three spots that seemed up for grabs before Saturday. First baseman Mat Gamel batted sixth, then shortstop Alex Gonzalez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy before the pitcher’s spot.

The key questions were where to bat Gamel, a 26-year-old getting his first chance as a Major League regular, and Lucroy, the third-year catcher who handled the challenging eight-hole for most of last season.

“I really like ‘Luc’ in the eighth spot,” Roenicke said. “‘Luc’ can hit in any of those others, but … in the National League lineup, you really need to get to that pitcher’s spot. You need to have him come up so you can get through it and get to the [top] of your lineup, and I think ‘Luc’ allows us to do that more than [Gamel or Gonzalez].”

With that spot set, the question then became whether to bat Gamel or Gonzalez sixth, behind the Brewers’ big boppers. Braun, Ramirez and Hart all bat right-handed, so Roenicke gave the nod to Gamel, a lefty hitter. Gamel is coming off a season spent mostly at Triple-A Nashville, where he batted .310 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in 128 games.

“When you talk about his tool set, he should be able to hit sixth in our lineup,” Roenicke said. “I don’t think that’s a pressure spot in our lineup; I think our pressure is going to be 3-4-5. So I think it allows [Gamel] to be in a position, hopefully, where the mental side of it, which is the difference between the Major Leagues and the Minor Leagues, will not come into play as much, and he can relax and hit. This guy can hit.”

Based on the team’s spring rotation, the Brewers’ Opening Day starter is Yovani Gallardo, though Roenicke has not made a formal declaration. Gallardo debuts Tuesday against the A’s and will make six starts, with an extra day of rest between one of them, Roenicke said. That schedule takes Gallardo right to April 6, when the Brewers host the World Champion Cardinals at Miller Park.

It would be Gallardo’s third consecutive Opening Day start.

Zack Greinke, meanwhile, will make his spring debut Sunday against the Giants in relief of Randy Wolf, then come back on three days’ rest to pitch Thursday against the Reds in the first of his six scheduled starts. That puts him on an every-five-day schedule leading to the Brewers’ second regular season game against the Cardinals on April 7.

At the moment, left-hander Wolf appears lined-up to pitch the finale of that Cardinals series, followed by Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson in the first two games against the Cubs. That alignment makes some sense based on recent and not-so-recent history; Wolf pitched a gem in last year’s National League Championship Series against the Cardinals and owns a 3.91 ERA in 19 regular-season starts against them, while Marcum was hit hard in last year’s NLCS and has pitched two gems against the Cubs.

“You guys can figure out where everybody slots,” Roenicke said.

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Marcum, Gallardo to carry lighter workload this spring

Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum will back off his throwing program after developing some tenderness in his shoulder for the second straight spring, manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday.

Roenicke downplayed the news, saying the Brewers already had Marcum on a conservative program this spring after he threw a career-high 210 innings in 2011, including the postseason, two years removed from Tommy John elbow surgery. Marcum and Yovani Gallardo came into camp scheduled for just six Spring Training starts beginning around March 10, Roenicke said.

Marcum also had a shoulder issue last spring.

“He says he has it every spring,” Roenicke said.

Marcum’s shoulder was more inflamed last year, when he missed a Cactus League start but was able to start the regular season on time and was the Brewers’ most consistent starting pitcher for much of the first half.

He sagged down the stretch, allowing 50 hits and 34 earned runs in his final 41 innings, covering five September starts and three more in the postseason.

“We’re not that concerned about it, but we talked about it and we didn’t think either one of those guys [Marcum or Gallardo] needed as many innings as some of the other starters,” Roenicke said.

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