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Crew tabs Davies for home opener vs. Cards

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- It's not Opening Day, but it's the next best thing for Brewers right-hander Zach Davies.

The Brewers plan to hold Davies, their most durable starting pitcher a year ago, out of the season-opening series in San Diego so he can pitch Milwaukee's April 2 home opener against the Cardinals. Besides the symbolic honor of starting in front of a sellout crowd at Miller Park, the move means Davies will catch another division rival, the Cubs, later in the Brewers' season-opening homestand.

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PHOENIX -- It's not Opening Day, but it's the next best thing for Brewers right-hander Zach Davies.

The Brewers plan to hold Davies, their most durable starting pitcher a year ago, out of the season-opening series in San Diego so he can pitch Milwaukee's April 2 home opener against the Cardinals. Besides the symbolic honor of starting in front of a sellout crowd at Miller Park, the move means Davies will catch another division rival, the Cubs, later in the Brewers' season-opening homestand.

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"Those both go into it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "You can't match up the whole season, so you're seeing who those first couple of starts are against and that's about as far as you can get.

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"And the reality is, I think the home opener is a fun game to pitch in. It's a symbolic game, but it's a fun game, and I thought Zach deserved an opportunity to pitch in that game."

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Davies was the only Brewer to top 30 starts last season, when he went 17-9 with a 3.90 ERA. He has been effective against the Cardinals (2-0, 3.41 ERA in six career starts) and Cubs (5-4, 3.90 ERA in 10 starts).

But Davies has not been particularly good at Miller Park, where he has a 4.78 ERA in 37 starts against a 2.86 ERA in 30 starts on the road. The issue was particularly acute last season, when Davies had a 5.82 ERA in 17 starts at home and a 2.04 ERA in 16 starts everywhere else. The first inning was especially problematic early on, so Davies found a creative solution by beginning his warmups early to simulate his wait on the bench while teammates bat in the top of the first inning of road games.

Davies employed the same strategy on Saturday, when he pitched 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies at Maryvale Baseball Park, an outing highlighted by a second-inning triple play. It was his first outing in a Spring Training "A" game since he developed discomfort in his left oblique after a March 3 outing against Colorado.

"It felt good to be back in 'real' game action," said Davies, who allowed a run on four hits and one walk while striking out three. "Everything felt good, felt crisp. I felt like my sequence went really well, and I got into game mode for the season. I'm just ready for the season to start."

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Davies excited for 2018 season

Despite missing one start and making another in a Minor League intrasquad game, Davies expects to get to the regular season with no restrictions. While the rest of the Brewers' starters will have their pitch counts dialed back in their final exhibition outings, Davies will build up.

He is lined up to start the Brewers' final exhibition at Houston's Minute Maid Park. The Cardinals loom six days later.

"It's almost like Opening Day, especially when you come home to the fans of Milwaukee," Davies said. "But wherever anyone starts in the rotation, it's going to be a lot of fun this year. It's going to get mixed up. But to throw [the first game] at home, it's special to me."

Davies was the third Brewers starter to get a game assignment to begin the season. Chase Anderson is scheduled to start Opening Day, and Jhoulys Chacin will start either Game 2 or 3 against the Padres, his former team.

The Brewers have yet to decide on their Nos. 4 and 5 starters, though left-handers Brent Suter and Wade Miley appear the frontrunners. Two other candidates, right-handers Junior Guerra and Brandon Woodruff, have Minor League options remaining. The team won't need a fifth starter until the eighth game of the regular season.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Zach Davies