Live From Spring Training: 31 Compete to Pitch for Milwaukee Brewers

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By: Melissa S. Wollering

For the next week, we’ll be coming to you live from Arizona and Cactus League play. A majority of my coverage will focus on the Milwaukee Brewers, but we’ll also throw is a taste of what’s going on with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox and more.

We start with what the Milwaukee Brewers need most: pitching. Look at it this way, at least they have options.  31 starters and relievers are looking to the make the roster and plenty of spots are for the taking. That’s a stark contrast to the 2009 rosters, in which the starting rotation had zero spots up for grabs and bullpen roles were fairly set.

The first three in the starting rotation seem set with a pair of lefties both acquired in the off-season; Randy Wolf and Doug Davis.  Returnee right-hander Yovani Gallardo is the third.

Suppan's Strike Zone or Lack Thereof...

That leaves Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan and dark-horse Chris Narveson to duke it out for the remaining two open slots in the rotation.  The likelihood of securing a spot may not be based on talent as much as it could be based on outside factors.

For example, keep in mind that Manny Parra has no minor-league options left. Dave Bush can definitely refuse an assignment to Class AAA Nashville. With two lefties already in the rotation, does the advantage lie with righties Bush and Suppan? Is the size of Suppan’s obscene $12.5M salary too much to swallow whole? If you truly believe performance is the number one factor in major league decision-making, than you’re eating a load of waffle. It is supposed to be, but that doesn’t mean it is.

“I think it’s going to be a very interesting camp,” said assistant general manager Gord Ash. “There’s going to be very intense competition for the last spot or two in the starting rotation.

There were to be 32 pitchers coming into camp, however David Riske was held back as he recovers from his elbow surgery. While a good number of the are young minor-league pitchers, reserve spots are up for grabs and some are likely to turn heads.

Here’s a glance at the 31:

59 John Axford
31 Dave Bush
62 Josh Butler
60 Todd Coffey
25 Doug Davis
74 Marco Estrada
49 Yovani Gallardo
32 LaTroy Hawkins
51 Trevor Hoffman
41 Chuck Lofgren
38 Chris Narveson
26 Manny Parra
71 Alex Periard
54 David Riske
58 Amaury Rivas
64 Mark Rogers
72 Cody Scarpetta
57 Mitch Stetter
37 Jeff Suppan
46 Claudio Vargas
12 Carlos Villanueva
43 Randy Wolf

Eric Arnett

Non-Roster Invitees

67 Eric Arnett
50 John Halama
70 Zach Braddock
39 Chris Capuano
48 Tim Dillard
68 Kyle Heckathorn
73 Kameron Loe
76 A.J. Murray
77 Scott Schoeneweis
52 Chris Smith

Apparently, Macha already likes Zach Braddock from early batting practice sessions against hitters. The lefty is considered one of the top prospects in the system.  Last year, he moved from a starting role to relief, which helped him minimize the innings pitched after several injury-plagued seasons.

While, he may not earn a roster spot in bullpen this month, Macha has already pegged him to contribute before the end of the season.

Now, age and experience can be negotiated—depth is what Doug Melvin and Ken Macha are truly looking for. Looking back on the 80-82 finish of the 2009 season, depth could have perhaps saved a few more games their demise in the L column. Hoffman likes what he has seen the front office do in the off-season.

“We’ve certainly filled a lot of holes that they said we had,” says closer Trevor Hoffman. “To bring the guys back that we brought back and then add the players we’ve added, I think it’s been a significant off-season.”

Now that the front office has done its job, the coaching staff is working in daily fundamental drills to get pitchers back to basics.  Sunday brought rain to Maryvale, so Ken Macha worked several fundamentals in an longer-length workout.

Pitching coach Rick Peterson has been positively scientific in his approach, using a biomechanical analysis where Peterson literally attaches sensors to players’ arms. In theory, the concept is designed to model their deliveries, help them tweak the mechanics to avoid injury and improve individual performance. Unfortunately, the real performance will have to be measured when they face-off against enemy hitters.

Check back tomorrow, as we take a look at the infield and outfield position depth as well as players’ hitting power.

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Comments

  1. mswollering says

    Let’s hope this is the only waffling that is done this season. Lego my Eggo, Suppan…

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