Remade rotation gets to work as Brewers report
With Gallardo gone, Lohse and Garza lead veterans to open spring
PHOENIX -- It was 8 degrees below zero when a large contingent of Brewers front-office officials lifted off the runway in Milwaukee on Thursday morning. A little more than 24 hours later, many of those same men stepped onto the freshly cut grass at Maryvale Baseball Park, where the temperature soared into the 80s.
Winter, your time is almost up. On Friday, Brewers pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training.
It will be another six days before manager Ron Roenicke's full squad takes the field for its first official workout, but Friday marked a ceremonial start to the Brewers' 47th season as a franchise. MLB.com will have it covered from the first warmup toss to the final exhibition pitch. The Brewers open the season on April 6 against the Rockies at Miller Park.
Among the storylines this spring:
• A post-Yovani Gallardo starting rotation that is part veteran (Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza) and part up-and-comer (Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson). Keeping that group healthy will be critical, since with the departure of Gallardo and swingman Marco Estrada, the Brewers appear to have less depth than in recent years.
"We've got five guys," Lohse said. "That's not something I really want to get into. We've got what we got here, and I feel good about what we've got. … We need these guys -- Fiers, Nelson, Wily -- just to do their part. If we stay healthy, I like our chances."
• An offense that returns almost entirely intact, but with a new boss in hitting coach Darnell Coles. He has history as a Minor League instructor and manager, so most Brewers hitters have already worked with Coles before.
• Key players coming back from injuries, including catcher Jonathan Lucroy (hamstring), Ryan Braun (hand), Jim Henderson (shoulder) and Tyler Thornburg (elbow).
• The usual position battles on the bench and in the bullpen, where Henderson and Thornburg are bidding to return to previously significant roles. Early reports on each right-hander have been positive. Thornburg said Friday that he expects to take the field Sunday for the team's first official workout under no physical restrictions, though the final decision belongs to Brewers medical officials.
• Ongoing chatter about a trade for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon or the signing of free-agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, both of whom remain available as camps open in Arizona and Florida. The Brewers have been linked to both, but so far have balked at the prices.
• Roenicke and GM Doug Melvin entering the final seasons of their contracts, working under owner Mark Attanasio, who expects the team to compete for a spot in the postseason.
Asked whether he could prognosticate what kind of team the Brewers would be this season, Lucroy said, "I wish. It's hard to say. We don't know about injuries. I think our pitching staff is going to be solid if guys pitch to their ability. I totally believe that."
Said Lohse: "I think we're going to be good. I think we're going to compete. We have a lot of guys with an ability to grind, and hopefully we have a group of guys who are ticked off about the way things ended last year."
The grind began Friday, when Maryvale Baseball Park came back to life.