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03/27/08 7:59 PM ET
Brewers take show back home
Crew to tune up for season with exhibitions in Milwaukee
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Exhibition baseball is coming to Miller Park this weekend. Maybe it will help melt the snow.
The Brewers broke camp in Arizona on Thursday and boarded a flight for Milwaukee, where they will host the Royals on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. They are the Brewers' final tuneups before Monday's season opener at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
"I'm just ready to get to Milwaukee," Brewers manager Ned Yost said earlier in the week. "Those two exhibition games will be great. Those will be fun. Miller Park -- a game-type atmosphere. Those are really beneficial to us, because you get into that situation two games before the season starts and it gets you some start on the season."
Jeff Suppan will make his final spring start on Friday, and Dave Bush will start Saturday. As of midweek, about 33,000 tickets had been sold for the two games, including 20,000 for Saturday, when the Brewers will spend the morning signing autographs at the annual "On Deck" event. According to Brewers executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger, the team was expecting a crowd of about 15,000 on Friday night and as many as 30,000 fans on Saturday.
All tickets for the exhibitions cost $10.
Suppan will start Friday against Royals right-hander Brian Bannister in a game played under National League rules. But the Brewers agreed to the Royals' request to use a designated hitter on Saturday, when Bush will start against right-hander Zack Greinke.
Will pitching under the Miller Park lights, instead of the Arizona sunshine, help Suppan prepare for the regular season?
"I like it," Suppan said. "It is that final tuneup. It is still Spring Training, yes, but it is still the final tuneup before the season starts. There is that -- Bam! -- lights are on, and you get that feeling once before you go out there [in the regular season]."
Suppan has had it both ways. In 1998, when he was with the Diamondbacks, Suppan pitched the first game at what is now Chase Field in Phoenix.
"But I've also had years where I am the fourth or fifth starter and I have pitched six innings in a batting cage," Suppan said. "That was a good tuneup, too, because I really got to work on different pitches.
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"This will be good, too, because I will be able to work with that extra adrenaline."
Suppan will be throwing to Brewers catcher Jason Kendall, who, the fabulous weather aside, was happy to leave Arizona.
"It's going to be good to get back to the fans," Kendall said. "Miller Park is gorgeous and it's going to be good to get back there. It's still Spring Training and the main goal is still to get ready for Monday, but we'll kick it in a little bit."
Said second baseman Rickie Weeks: "It's going to be nice to actually have some adrenaline going into a game for the first time in a while."
Yost said he expected to play his starting position players six or seven innings in both games.
Three starters will not make the trip to Milwaukee. Carlos Villanueva, Manny Parra and Yovani Gallardo instead remained in Phoenix and will pitch in a Minor League game Sunday. Villanueva and Parra will re-join the Brewers on Monday, but Gallardo will stay behind to continue rehabbing a knee injury.
A handful of others will make the trip to Milwaukee, but not to Chicago for the start of the regular season, including center fielder Mike Cameron, who must sit out the first 25 games. Cameron was granted permission to head home to Atlanta for a few days, but he will spend most of his suspension in Phoenix at extended Spring Training camp. Cameron can play the final five games of his suspension at Triple-A Nashville.
Others who will be in Milwaukee this weekend, but not in Chicago include pitcher Steve Bray, catcher Carlos Corporan and infielders Ozzie Chavez, Alcides Escobar and Abraham Nunez.
The rest of the Brewers will travel to Chicago on Sunday morning for a workout at Wrigley Field from 3-5 p.m. CT. Weather permitting, Cubs righty Carlos Zambrano will throw his first pitch to Brewers leadoff man Weeks at 1:20 p.m. CT on Monday.