Monday, February 18, 2013

Will The Brewers Start Gallardo On Opening Day At Miller Park?


Attempting to maintain some level of anticipation, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters on the first day of Spring Training last week that he was still not certain who would start on the mound for Opening Day. Pestered by reporters, Roenicke did admit that it would be easy to guess who he had in mind for the first game of 2013 at Miller Park. Still, he insisted that he would follow tradition and allow spring training to be played out before making anything official. Barring a disaster, the manager was referring to his “go to” starter of the past four seasons, Yovani Gallardo.

The twenty-seven year old will start his sixth season with the Brewers here in 2013. He’s more of a veteran now. Following in the footsteps of past leaders like Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia, and Zack Grienke, Gallardo says that he is ready for the added pressures of leadership, though it does feel a bit daunting at times.
Gallardo had a taste of his future status on the team late in 2012, following the trade of Zack Grienke and the loss of Randy Wolf. Putting-up an impressive eight wins in his final nine appearances of that season, the Mexican native brought the Brewers back within striking distance of the Wildcard race. This effort impressed the Brewers staff enough to entrust him with the top spot in the rotation this year.
It can be said that it was easy to put Gallardo atop the rotation, with his extensive experience as a starter. Throwing nearly 3500 pitches last season; he topped the National League in that category, and was second to just the Mets R.A. Dickey in quality starts throughout the league.
Despite that experience, some critics have questioned the team's decision to put so much faith in just a single starting ace. With 148 starts in his career, Gallardo bests the Brewers second-most experienced starter, Chris Narveson. The team's second-most talented starter, and the only other lock for a spot in the rotation according to Roenicke, is Marco Estrada. Estrada has just thirty-two starts under his belt. Beyond that, the Brewers three other contenders, Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, and Mark Rodgers have only thirty-six starts in the majors between them.
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin states that every one of those starters has the full confidence of the Brewers staff going into camp. Citing an encouraging final few months of 2012, Melvin told reporters that his squad would be ready to compete come April.
Adding credence to the general manager's words was the above-average outings put up by Gallardo and crew last season. While Gallardo's performances speak for themselves, Peralta, Fiers, Estrada, and Rodgers combined for winning records in 2012.

Estrada had one of the best “strikeout to walk” ratios in the majors, managing 143 strikeouts to twenty-nine walks, over twenty-three starts. Fiers and Rodgers both had below 2.50 ERAs during their comparatively few starts in 2012. Narveson sat out most of the 2012 season with injuries, but a productive off-season and a solid start to spring training have made him a viable contender for one of three spots behind Estrada and Gallardo in 2013.