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Crew names Chacin as Opening Day starter

@AdamMcCalvy
March 14, 2019

PHOENIX -- With two weeks to go, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell made it official: Jhoulys Chacín will start for the Brewers on Opening Day. “Jhoulys earned the honor from what he did last year,” Counsell said. “He deserves it, for sure.” It came as little surprise that Chacin was selected

PHOENIX -- With two weeks to go, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell made it official: Jhoulys Chacín will start for the Brewers on Opening Day.

“Jhoulys earned the honor from what he did last year,” Counsell said. “He deserves it, for sure.”

It came as little surprise that Chacin was selected to pitch amid the pomp and circumstance on March 28 against the Cardinals at Miller Park, since the 31-year-old was Milwaukee’s steadiest starter a year ago and reported to camp as the only sure thing in a season-opening rotation that the Brewers believe has in depth what it may lack in star power.

In the first season of a two-year deal, Chacin was 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA in the 2018 regular season before logging a 1.46 ERA in three starts during the postseason. His .220 opponents’ batting average in the regular season was good for seventh in the National League.

Chacin’s signature start came in the NL Central tiebreaker game on Oct. 1 at Wrigley Field. He limited the Cubs to a run on Anthony Rizzo’s solo homer in a solid 5 2/3 innings before Counsell turned the game over to the team’s stout bullpen to finish a 3-1 win that gave the Brewers their first division crown since 2011.

“All the things we did last year were just awesome, and it’s an honor to get to start Opening Day for a team that just gave me so much,” Chacin said. “Hopefully I can give it back, and just try to start off the season on the right foot.”

It will be Chacin’s third career Opening Day start -- each with a different team. He allowed nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings while pitching for the Padres against the Dodgers in 2017. He pitched better in his first Opening Day assignment, for the Rockies in 2013, but received a no-decision in Colorado's loss to the Brewers, despite 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

“I never had a chance to pitch for the home team -- the two times had been away, so I think it’s going to be a little bit different,” Chacin said. “The fans always support us. I know we made their season when we beat the Cubs for the division, and I know there are going to be a lot of fans who are so excited for the team. We just want to give back for all they do for us.”

Counsell made no pronouncements beyond Opening Day, but Zach Davies and Chase Anderson are currently lined up on the next two days. If they stay that way, it would leave two spots for the young trio of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, all of whom have options, Regardless which of those three makes the initial 25-man roster, all of them are expected to make a significant number of Major League starts this season.

Another starter, Jimmy Nelson, is still building back from missing all of last season following shoulder surgery. He'll begin the season on the injured list.

“It’s interesting, because who our best starting pitcher is -- who knows?” Counsell said.

He meant that as praise for the group. Without a traditional ace, Brewers starters ranked 11th of 30 teams last season with a 3.92 ERA. The high-priced Cubs rotation, which began the season with Yu Darvish and Jon Lester and finished with Cole Hamels, were one spot higher at 3.84.

“After last year, everybody here is capable of doing Opening Day. … We played in some relatively big games started by others,” Counsell said. “This is an honor because it's the first day and there's ceremonial fun to the first day. Then some of you will show up on Friday, and you're ‘in it.' Then you realize that they're just going to take their turn pitching, and it's about throwing quality out there for the 34 times you go out there. That's what's important."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.