PHOENIX -- Recent reports of the Brewers' interest in free agent starting pitchers have been "exaggerated," GM David Stearns said Thursday, which would be good news for the most accomplished of the six candidates vying for two open rotation spots.
Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers' all-time strikeout leader who is returning with hopes of rekindling his career, arrived Thursday in time for the first formal workout of Brewers pitchers and catchers. Coming off two tough seasons with the Orioles and Mariners, Gallardo is on a non-guaranteed contract and must rise to the top of a field that currently includes left-handers Brent Suter and Wade Miley, and right-handers Brandon Woodruff, Junior Guerra and Aaron Wilkerson.
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"In the situation I was in before, I would look forward to Opening Day," Gallardo said. "Now, you have to compete from the first game you step on that mound in Spring Training."
Stearns added another competitor on Thursday, when Miley passed a physical to seal his Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp. Like Gallardo, Miley is coming off multiple rough seasons, but Stearns cited his past Major League success and said the Brewers "have some ideas why" Miley struggled recently. Like Gallardo, Miley could wind up in the bullpen if he does not crack the rotation.
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The other lefty in the group, Suter, "has a leg up" for a spot somewhere on the Opening Day roster, whether in the rotation or the bullpen, manager Craig Counsell said.
And Stearns did not completely rule out additional signings.
"It's a possibility," he said. "Clearly, there are a number of free agents who are still available -- it's been well-documented. I think some of the coverage that's been out there over the last couple of months has been exaggerated from our perspective. But certainly as long as there are good players out there, we're going to explore that."
What Stearns has avoided saying is whether the Brewers actually made a formal offer to free agent right-hander Yu Darvish before Darvish signed with the Cubs. It was widely reported, and even suggested by Darvish himself via his Twitter feed, that the Brewers made an offer, but Stearns' silence on the matter could indicate those reports were false.
It would not have been in Stearns' interest to correct the report, since rumblings of a division rival's involvement could only have driven up the price for the Cubs, not brought it down.
"We do think we have the kind of depth needed to get through a Major League season," Stearns said. "We're never going to close the door on making ourselves better, but I think we have a good group."
Gallardo hopes to be part of that group.
"I'm excited. Last year, honestly, was the best I've felt since I left Milwaukee," said Gallardo, whose good feeling didn't show up in his stat line, as he threw to a 5.72 ERA over 130 2/3 innings with Seattle. "The past couple of years, they haven't gone my way. You guys know me and know I'm straightforward -- I'm not happy [about the past two seasons] and I'm not satisfied with that. I have to go out there and compete at a high level."
He added, "I owe a lot to this organization and this club. Day 1, right out of high school, 18 years old I walked across the parking lot [to Maryvale's Minor League clubhouse] for the first day of spring. It's a good feeling to see it once again."