August 1st, 2012

Marcum passes ‘big’ bullpen test

It happened with only a few hundred fans at Miller Park, most of them focused on the Astros taking batting practice. In the bullpen, Brewers starter Shaun Marcum passed a key test in his return from a right elbow injury.

Marcum, a free agent after the season who has not pitched since mid-June because of tightness in his elbow, pitched from the bullpen mound for about 20 minutes under the watch of pitching coach Rick Kranitz, sitting down at one point to simulate a break between innings.

Before the game, manager Ron Roenicke called it a “big” moment. After the game, he deemed it an “outstanding” success.

“He’s going to go for it,” Roenicke said earlier. “This is a big bullpen [session]. He’s going to throw breaking stuff, he’s going to bust it all out.”

Marcum’s next step is facing hitters in a simulated game Saturday or Sunday in St. Louis. He would then make at least two Minor League rehabilitation appearances. Marcum is eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list beginning Aug. 14, and Roenicke said that if all goes well, “The timing is somewhere in there. It will be close.”

Marcum will be a free agent for the first time, and when healthy, he is a quality pitcher. Since missing the 2009 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, Marcum is 31-18 with a 3.56 ERA in 77 starts, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) of better than three to one. In the last three seasons, only 11 qualifying pitchers have allowed fewer walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) than Marcum’s 1.15.

The question is how he will be valued on the free-agent market after this elbow issue. Since Marcum knows what is at stake, Roenicke said the Brewers’ medical staff is keeping a very close eye on him.

“Hey, I want him to perform for us and win ballgames, but I also am concerned about him and his future, too,” Roenicke said.

In other injury news, left-hander Manny Parra was examined by Dr. William Raasch on Wednesday to determine what’s going on which his balky left shoulder. Parra said he has an impingement in the joint.

He is not expected to pitch against the Cardinals and will be re-examined on Monday when the Brewers return to Miller Park. “As of right now,” Roenicke said, Parra will avoid the 15-day disabled list.

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