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Garza off to good start in bid to make rotation

Righty finished strong in 2016, fired scoreless inning in spring debut
MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell said prior to his club losing 6-2 to the Mariners at Peoria Stadium that seven pitchers are vying for five starting slots in a rotation derby of sorts.

One of those candidates is veteran right-hander Matt Garza, who had an uneventful inning of work in his first spring start Thursday.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell said prior to his club losing 6-2 to the Mariners at Peoria Stadium that seven pitchers are vying for five starting slots in a rotation derby of sorts.

One of those candidates is veteran right-hander Matt Garza, who had an uneventful inning of work in his first spring start Thursday.

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"We're preparing seven guys right now, and we're going to have to make some decisions at the end of the spring," Counsell said. "He's one of those guys."

Garza, now 33 years old and going into his 12th big league season, said he's not daunted by the competition.

"I went through this in Tampa in '08," said Garza, who allowed Jarrod Dyson's leadoff single and then induced three easy ground ball outs. "There were six or seven of us fighting for the five spots. The only ones who had their spots was like here, the top two guys. I think the dogfight from within is good. It leads to the dogfight between the lines."

Garza was a big part of a rotation with Tampa that produced David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson, to name a few. As the Brewers have shed payroll and players in recent years, Garza is one of the few veterans left standing.

Video: Garza says Brewers are moving in the right direction

Of the seven rotation candidates, Counsell said Junior Guerra and Zach Davies are set. The other three are still to be determined.

"It's the best way," Counsell said. "We finished the season with six starters and now we've added Tommy Milone to the mix. I think Jimmy [Nelson] didn't finish the season strong, but the other five guys finished the season very strong. Depth is where you want to be sitting at at this time of spring, and I'm happy to be sitting at that spot."

Garza was one of those guys who finished the season strong, allowing six earned runs in five of his final six starts. He says he's healthy now and coming off a normal offseason in which all he had to do was prepare rather than rehab or "prehab" to ward off another injury.

Plus, he's listening to Counsell and is beginning to rely on secondary pitches as his fastball velocity has begun to decrease. The manager was pleased with Garza's mixture of off-speed pitches Thursday, saying it was a "very positive first outing for him."

"Couns expressed many times that I had to change who I was pitching-style wise as a guy who just came up trying to beat people," Garza said. "It was a rough transition, but it was a long time coming for me to feel good about it. I fell into it at the end of last year, and I've been running with that mentality."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

Milwaukee Brewers, Matt Garza