Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Milwaukee Brewers to Start Five Right-handers in 2013

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With the recent acquisition of right-handed pitcher Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012), the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers pitching rotation is now set.

The odd thing is, all five starters — Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, Lohse, Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta — are right-handers.  It’s highly unusual to go with an all right-handed starting rotation in this day and age, especially when you have a capable left-hander like Chris Narveson on your roster.

“But Barb,” I can hear you saying.  “Narveson was injured last year.  Don’t you remember?  Season-ending arm injury, the 60-day disabled list, the whole enchilada?”

Of course I remember.  But until Lohse was signed this past week to a three-year deal (the widely-reported terms were for $33 million over that time span, with some money being deferred), the Brewers’ brain trust maintained that Narveson would not be on a pitch count and would be in the starting rotation.  Then, they suddenly changed their minds after Lohse was signed.

What I’ve seen out of Lohse over the years is heartening.  He’s a smart pitcher, as Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said in several news reports (including this one from ESPN Wisconsin’s Drew Olson).  He has a steady, even temperament that works well with other teammates and rarely riles up opponents.  And he’s saying and doing all the right things thus far, which you’d expect out of such a savvy veteran.

The only possible downside has to do with Lohse’s age.  He’s thirty-four.  Very few pitchers have been able to pitch well for three straight years at thirty-four.  But it’s possible that Lohse will do very well and buck the trend, especially as he seems to be much like former Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano with regards to work-ethic and training regimen.

The signing of Lohse was welcome, as it now gives the Brewers two solid starters in Gallardo and Lohse, along with experienced swingman Estrada (now firmly ensconced in the starting rotation).  But the Brewers will still have two pitchers in their starting rotation with little major league experience in Peralta and Fiers, which is why it’s so puzzling that Narveson was put in the bullpen despite a solid spring.

Of course, Narveson is coming off major surgery.  The Brewers obviously don’t want to reaggravate any shoulder problems that may not have healed properly, which might be considered a wise move considering what happened to New York Mets starter (and left-hander) Johan Santana — about to miss all of 2013 after re-aggravating his left shoulder.  Many past Brewers pitchers recovering from injury — including Capuano, Ben Sheets, Mark Rodgers, and others — have been placed on pitch counts while they get back to full arm strength.  And every good baseball fan knows that it’s far easier for a manager to keep a pitcher to a stated pitch count if he’s coming out of the bullpen,

This, of course, is provided that the manager doesn’t overuse the relief pitcher by calling upon him several days in a row, as doing so negates any advantage sticking to a strict pitch count could possibly bring.

At any rate, Lohse is now in the Brewers’ fold.  That’s good.

But it remains to be seen what the Brewers will get out of Fiers and Peralta, especially as Peralta’s exhibition start against the Chicago White Sox last night was, to be charitable, awful.  (Four runs in four and a third innings is not good by any stretch of the imagination, even if two were unearned.)  Peralta actually looked so shaky in the third inning that it was surprising when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke left him out there long enough to get rocked in the fifth.

Because of how young Peralta is, I’d say he’s the most likely candidate to be sent down if he’s unable to regain the form he flashed during the Brewers end-of-the-season run toward the second Wild Card spot.  Which is why if I were Narveson, I’d bide my time, and be prepared to pitch multiple innings when called upon in order to stay as “stretched out” as possible (so a spot start, or return to the rotation down the lines, is less difficult).

Because it seems to me that if Narveson does all that, he’ll be rejoining the starting rotation sooner rather than later regardless of how Peralta and Fiers actually perform.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2013 at 10:15 am

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