Gallardo tosses pain-free inning in Classic tuneup
Brewers right-hander expected to start Mexico's matchup Friday vs. Team USA
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo had his final tuneup for the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night and passed the audition with a resounding arpeggio.
Gallardo, who has been bothered by a mild right-groin strain, pitched the first inning for Mexico against the D-backs at Salt River Fields. He faced five batters, walking two and striking out the side. If there's no residual effect, it will earn him the start for the Mexicans against Team USA on Friday night at Chase Field in the marquee game of Pool D.
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"I felt good," Gallardo said about his 24-pitch outing. "I threw mostly fastballs. A couple of sliders, a changeup and a curveball. But I felt fine. The main goal for me was just to go out there and feel healthy."
Mexico manager Rick Renteria confirmed that in Friday night's matchup, Gallardo will be opposite R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays knuckleballer who was tabbed to start by U.S. manager Joe Torre, plus will get the chance to face Ryan Braun, his Milwaukee teammate and left fielder for Team USA. A crowd of about 40,000 is expected.
"It's going to be an exciting game all around," Gallardo said. "No matter what sport it is, Mexico-U.S. always brings a lot of excitement. We got to talk about it a little bit going into this thing. It's the first time I'm going to get a chance to face him. It got close once in the Futures Game. He was on deck. So we'll be there all over again."
Gallardo said it hasn't been determined whether he'll be allowed to throw the first-round limit of 65 pitches.
"He threw extremely well," Renteria said. "We were watching him very carefully and making sure that his gait, his stride was as it is normally. He looked fine. He came off the hill. I talked to him. He said he felt good, felt nothing and that he's ready to go."
Asked about the pitch count, Renteria added: "That's not what we'd possibly do because of his limitations. This was just a prep inning of work to get him ready for his start. Let's see where it takes us. He can't pitch beyond 65 pitches. But if it's clean and he gets through it, at least 50 pitches."
Mexico opens pool play Thursday vs. Italy at Salt River Fields and finishes Saturday against Canada at Chase Field in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. Renteria said the remainder of his starting rotation is still to be determined.
Gallardo hadn't pitched since Feb. 26 against the Mariners when he incurred the mild strain, putting his participation in the tournament in jeopardy.
"I really didn't have any issues at all," Gallardo said. "I really wasn't worried about it going into it, but you always have [the injury] in the back of your mind a little bit. I've been treating it for the last five days, but the last three days it was fine just running around. I just went out there and made sure it was all right."
The Brewers had a trainer and pitching coach Rick Kranitz at the ballpark on Tuesday night to monitor the proceedings. Earlier in the day, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said he was trusting Gallardo's honesty about being healthy enough to appear in the Classic. Gallardo, who missed the tournament in 2009 because of knee surgery, is in line to open the season for the Brewers for the fourth consecutive year.
"It's a trust thing, but 'Yo' understands." Roenicke said. "He understands what would happen if it flares up again -- he probably wouldn't be our starting pitcher to start the season."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.