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At 36, Lohse feeling on top of his game

Projected Opening Day starter hoping to win with Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Statistically, Kyle Lohse is in the prime of his career, with four of his best seasons in terms of ERA+ and fielding independent pitching in the past five years. And with the trade of Yovani Gallardo to Texas, Lohse is the presumptive pick to start for the Brewers on Opening Day.

But he is also 36 years old, which explains why Lohse is asked more and more these days about his post-playing career plans. It's an uncomfortable question.

"It's not a question I like answering, because obviously I'm coming up on a free-agent year," said Lohse, who is entering the third and final season of a $33 million contract. "I've done quite a bit in the game, and I'd like to keep throwing as long as I can. I'm still having fun doing it.

"We'll see how long my body can hold up, but last year was one of the best years I've felt, except when I rolled my ankle [in August]. Arm-wise, everything was really good. I feel like I can do it for a while. I don't have to be a guy who goes out there and throws upper 90s to get it done. I can get it done other ways."

Video: [email protected]: Lohse pitches 7 1/3 frames of one-run ball

He has been getting it done with consistency since undergoing an experimental forearm surgery in 2010. From 2011-14, Lohse was 54-30 with a 3.28 ERA, topping 188 innings in each of those seasons and finishing seventh in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2012, his final year with the Cardinals.

He's done it by becoming a different pitcher than his early days with the Twins, Reds, Phillies and Cardinals. In his first three big league seasons with the Twins, Lohse threw better than 60 percent four-seam fastballs and averaged around 92 mph with that pitch. Last season, when Lohse was 13-9 with a 3.54 ERA for the Brewers, he threw only 45.7 percent four-seamers while throwing the highest percentage of sliders (29.7 percent) in his career and the second-highest percentage of curveballs (11.9 percent).

Last summer, before the Brewers collapsed, Lohse said he has never had more fun pitching. So he intends to keep playing beyond the end of his current contract, even if he doesn't fit Milwaukee's financial plans.

The Gallardo trade last week, which saved the Brewers $9 million and opened a rotation spot for 25-year-old Jimmy Nelson, was a sign that anyone can be dealt.

"I've been around long enough to know not to worry about things you can't control, and that's one of them," Lohse said. "I don't have any no-trade provisions, so I know I could get tapped on the shoulder right now and told, 'Hey, you're going somewhere else.' That's part of it. I try not to worry about things like that. I'm happy here, obviously, and I want to win here. I want to stay here as long as I can.

"I've been the subject of trade talks ever since I've been in the big leagues, and you just learn to deal with it. That's the business side of it. You can be moved at any moment, as long as you don't have that full no-trade, which I had one time, but not anymore."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
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