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Roster decisions still to come for Brewers

Battle for rotation spots undecided with crowded mix
March 16, 2017

Editor's Note: More than a month has passed since took its first crack at predicting the Brewers' Opening Day roster, and not much has changed. Here is an updated look at where things stand: PHOENIX -- With two weeks left in the Cactus League, the Brewers face the same

Editor's Note: More than a month has passed since took its first crack at predicting the Brewers' Opening Day roster, and not much has changed. Here is an updated look at where things stand:
PHOENIX -- With two weeks left in the Cactus League, the Brewers face the same welcome problem: Too many starting pitchers for too few spots.
Weeks of Spring Training have produced little separation between the players vying for rotation spots, six of whom returned from last year: Chase Anderson , Zach Davies , Matt Garza , Junior Guerra , Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta . Over the winter, the Brewers added another name to the mix, signing free-agent left-hander Tommy Milone to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal.
Guerra and Davies are locks, Brewers manager Craig Counsell has indicated since the start of camp. But the skipper has yet to announce an Opening Day starter, or give any hints about how the rest of the rotation will fill out.
"There's a lot of time left from my perspective. We're not close," Counsell said Thursday morning. "I know you guys want news stories, but we're not close yet."

Peralta is a bit further along because he pitched for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, but the other Brewers starters are at the 60-to-65-pitch mark. They each have at least three spring starts remaining.
There also remains the possibility of a creative solution.
Asked about that possibility before Spring Training, Counsell said, "I think this will be a year a lot of people talk about different ways of deploying your pitching, and if we have the players that kind of allow us to deploy it a little differently, then it's something we'll have to consider, for sure.
"I think it's been coming. We've talked about it, and I think it's something we'll continue to consider. It's really about outs. How do you get your guys to get 27 outs?"
While Counsell and the Brewers start to mull their options, here is an updated guess of a possible Opening Day roster:
Catchers:Jett Bandy , Manny Pina
Andrew Susac remains in the mix, too, but he has a Minor League option left. Pina does not, and may have a leg up by virtue of being in the Brewers' organization all of last season. Bandy, meanwhile, cost the Brewers two players -- including longtime Milwaukee catcher Martin Maldonado -- in a trade with the Angels.
First base:Eric Thames
Thames' bat was quiet for the first half of Cactus League games, but his home run against the Cubs on Tuesday should take some of the pressure off, Counsell said. The Brewers signed Thames to a three-year deal after he spent three years in the Korea Baseball Organization, and they remain hopeful that his left-handed bat will help balance the offense.

Second base:Jonathan Villar
The position has mostly belonged to Scooter Gennett for the past three seasons, but now it's Villar's.
Third base:Travis Shaw
Acquired along with two prospects from the Red Sox for reliever Tyler Thornburg , Shaw brings another left-handed bat, quality defense and a respectable .754 OPS in his first 778 big league plate appearances. He'll get every opportunity to pin down this position, with right-handed-hitting Hernan Perez available as a platoon option.
Shortstop: Orlando Arcia
Arcia has long been a Major League-ready defensive shortstop, but the question has been his bat. If he struggles, the Brewers could always send Arcia back to the Minors and re-install Villar at short.

Outfielders:Ryan Braun , Keon Broxton , Domingo Santana , Kirk Nieuwenhuis
The Brewers made no changes to their outfield alignment from last season, when Braun, Broxton and Santana were the Opening Day starters and Nieuwenhuis found regular work as the only left-handed hitter among the quartet. Perez also figures to see action in the outfield, and Gennett has been spending the spring acclimating to the position as well.
Bench: Perez, Gennett, Jesus Aguilar
Perez is a certainty. For the other two spots, it's a question of offense versus defensive versatility. Gennett and Aguilar are potent bats, but Aguilar is limited to first base and Gennett is still getting comfortable at positions other than second. Eric Sogard and Yadiel Rivera are among the more defensively-versatile players in camp.

Starting pitchers: Guerra, Davies, Garza, Nelson, Peralta
This remains educated guesswork. Guerra and Davies are in, and it would be a big surprise to see the Brewers move away from Nelson, who is 27 and made 62 starts over the past two seasons. Peralta was not effective early last season, but he finished strong and was a big enough part of the Brewers' plans last year that they started him on Opening Day. Garza is due $12.5 million in the final year of his contract, but don't forget about Anderson, who had a 1.98 ERA in September.
Might the Brewers somehow use all six from the start of the season? Maybe. If not, we'll continue to guess that the club errs on the side of experience, and Anderson opens the season in long relief. Milone, too.
Bullpen:Neftali Feliz , Carlos Torres , Corey Knebel , Jacob Barnes , Jhan Marinez , Tyler Cravy, Anderson
We've made a change here and added Cravy, a crafty right-hander who has piled up outs in the Cactus League. The switch came at Michael Blazek's expense, though he has done a nice job in camp refining his fastball command. Southpaws Milone and Brent Suter and right-handers Taylor Jungmann, Joba Chamberlain, Rob Scahill and others remain in play here as well. Lots of decisions still to make.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.