No surprises as Brewers set roster
Continuity is key as all eight positional starters return in '09
LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers officially added outfielder Chris Duffy to the 40-man roster on Sunday, purchasing his contract from Triple-A Nashville, to set in place the Opening Day roster. It will look strikingly familiar in the field while featuring some new faces on the mound.It includes: Starting pitchers Jeff Suppan, Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Braden Looper and Dave Bush. Relief pitchers Todd Coffey, Mark DiFelice, Jorge Julio, Seth McClung, David Riske, Mitch Stetter and Carlos Villanueva. Catchers Jason Kendall and Mike Rivera. Infielders Craig Counsell, Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy, Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks and Brad Nelson. Outfielders Ryan Braun, Mike Cameron, Duffy and Corey Hart. Closer Trevor Hoffman, who played catch for a second straight day Saturday, will open the season on the 15-day disabled list. There is no schedule for Hoffman to throw off a mound, according to assistant general manager Gord Ash. After 36 Spring Training games, the Brewers are finally ready to play for real. "I think I've gotten to know the guys and that's been a big help," new manager Ken Macha said Saturday before the spring finale at Dodger Stadium. "It's been a pleasure. I was talking to Kendall today, telling him how good they mesh. Everybody roots for each other." That could be because so many Brewers advanced through the Minor Leagues together, Macha surmised. Ten members of the Opening Day roster have spent their entire professional careers with the Brewers, including two of the five starting pitchers (Gallardo and Parra) and six of the eight projected positional starters (Braun, Fielder, Hall, Hardy, Hart and Weeks). All eight of Milwaukee's positional starters are back from 2008, though Macha appears to have settled on flipping Hardy and Hart in the starting lineup. If his lineups against the Dodgers this weekend were an indication, Macha will bat second baseman Weeks leadoff, followed by right fielder Hart, left fielder Braun, first baseman Fielder, shortstop Hardy, center fielder Cameron, third baseman Hall and then catcher Kendall. "I think it's an advantage to have that continuity," said bench coach Willie Randolph, who was a Yankees coach during that team's 1990s run of similar stability. "It's big to know who you can lean on when guys get tough. That was especially true in New York, where things can get a little divided, but I think it's true here." Off the bench, the Brewers have versatility. Rivera and McGehee bat right-handed while Counsell, Duffy and Nelson hit lefty. Counsell is a plus defender at shortstop, second base and third base and McGehee is good at third base and second while also serving as the emergency catcher. Nelson is adequate in the corner outfield spots and provides some pop with his bat, and Duffy is above average defensively at all three outfield spots and has speed for pinch-running duties. Just like the lineup, there is continuity in the starting rotation, even with the well-publicized departure of free agents CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets. Gallardo missed most of 2008 because of two separate knee injuries, but he combined with Bush, Parra and Suppan to make 93 starts last season. The newcomer is Looper, a former reliever who switched to starting two years ago and signed with Milwaukee just before the start of Spring Training. He was sidelined for the first half of Spring Training by a rib-cage strain, but is back on track and was to pitch in an intrasquad game in Phoenix on Sunday. "You look at other clubs and they're still deciding their fourth and fifth starters [in the final week of Spring Training]," general manager Doug Melvin said. "We have five starters, and we know who they've been from Day 1 and they're still there." Even without Sabathia and Sheets, Melvin likes his club's starting five. "I think from a depth standpoint, we're OK," Melvin said. "In Texas, we used to evaluate whether our five, four, three starters were better than the other clubs' five, four, three. You win three of every five starts, that's pretty good. ... I look at Gallardo and Parra and wonder if they can step up the way Gavin Floyd and [John] Danks did for the White Sox, the way [Kevin] Slowey and [Scott] Baker did for the Twins." In the bullpen, though, there has been change. Four key relievers departed: closer Salomon Torres to retirement, Guillermo Mota and Brian Shouse to free agency and Eric Gagne to injury. Though only three of the seven arms in this year's bullpen -- McClung, Riske and Villanueva -- were with the team last year on Opening Day (Villanueva was in the starting rotation), Coffey, DiFelice and Stetter all appeared for the Brewers at some point in 2008. The true newcomer is Julio, a hard-throwing former Orioles closer whose spot on the team was sealed when Hoffman went to the DL with his own rib-cage strain. "Villanueva is coming around and that's a big plus," Macha said. "Then the other pieces kind of fall into place. What the last two weeks have done for me was, I've been able to look at guys and try to figure out when they would be coming into the game. Some guys have pushed themselves up the ladder; some guys have not." Regardless of how roles shake out, Macha likes the variety of his bullpen. "You've got Coffey throwing a little bit sidearm with a sinker," Macha said. "Riske likes to 'ride the ball.' You've got Villanueva, who is kind of a four-pitch guy with a pretty good change-up. You've got Stetter with the left-handed look. You have Julio [and McClung] with the power. And DiFelice with the cutter. You've got a different look with each guy coming out." And one common goal: repeat as a contender in 2009.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.