Gallardo likely won't start opener
Macha points to blooming righty's limited big league experience
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ken Macha will not name his Opening Day starter until the final week of March, but he was "over 50 percent" sure on Tuesday that it will not be right-hander Yovani Gallardo."I'd rather have this guy go out and start in the middle somewhere," Macha said of Gallardo, who turns 23 on Feb. 27. "I don't know where it's going to be just yet. Who knows, it might be second starter. ... I don't want him going out there thinking he has to throw a shutout every game and know you're facing [Tim] Lincecum and [Jake] Peavy and [Carlos] Zambrano, guys like that."
Gallardo could emerge as Milwaukee's ace this season, but Macha pointed to his limited big league experience -- 124 1/3 regular-season innings and 21 starts. It makes sense that the same thought process would hold for 26-year-old lefty Manny Parra, who has logged 192 1/3 innings and 31 starts in one-plus seasons with the Brewers.If that's the case, it would leave a trio of veteran right-handers in line for the Opening Day nod on April 7 in San Francisco, presumably against Lincecum: Dave Bush, Braden Looper or Jeff Suppan. Gallardo missed most of last season because of separate injuries to both of his knees which required surgery, but he has drawn big-game assignments before. After making just one late-season start against the Pirates following ACL surgery on his right knee, acting manager Dale Sveum tabbed Gallardo for Game 1 of the National League Division Series in Philadelphia, Milwaukee's first postseason game in 26 years. Opening Day, though, appears off-limits. "I don't think we can do that," Macha said. "That's my opinion. ... I've been around a bunch of young pitchers who end up developing, but 150 innings is not really a barometer." When Gallardo was asked the other day about the potential of an Opening Day start, he downplayed his desire for that assignment. "Every starter would like to be [the Opening Day pitcher] at some point," he said. "I try not to think about it at this point because there are things you have to do now in spring to prepare yourself." Macha did leave open the door for Gallardo to open the second half, which actually could be the more prestigious assignment. Because there are fewer off-days in July, August and September, whomever draws that game is more likely to face other teams' top pitchers. The Brewers have an off-day on March 24, after which Macha intends to line up the rotation for the start of the season. The Brewers' Opening Day choice should become clear soon after that date. At the same time he mulls that decision, Macha is working on a lineup that will probably look very similar to the one the Brewers set for much of last season. To aid his decision, Macha ordered a set of statistics during the offseason that he usually uses to analyze opponents. Second baseman Rickie Weeks, who was bumped from the leadoff spot late last year by Sveum, who favored Mike Cameron, will probably return to the top under Macha. Shortstop J.J. Hardy will probably hit second, based partly on his success at the end of last season, though Macha said he is also considering hitting Hardy fifth. And left fielder Ryan Braun will continue to hit third, in front of first baseman Prince Fielder, because Macha favors some speed in the three-hole. Catcher Jason Kendall will hit eighth. He didn't specify his preference for the remaining spots, though if Hardy is in the two-hole, right fielder Corey Hart probably will hit fifth. That would leave Cameron and whomever plays third base to bat sixth or seventh.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.