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08/22/10 5:37 PM ET

Capuano's long-term goal: Starting again

Brewers southpaw reestablishing himself as Major Leaguer

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano knew that this season would be about reestablishing himself as a Major League pitcher. The next step, he said, is reestablishing himself as a Major League starter.

Capuano did not pitch in the Majors in 2008 or '09 while recovering from his second Tommy John elbow surgery. He worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings Friday for his first win at Miller Park since May '07, and he has a 3.72 ERA in 14 relief appearances. Capuano also has made two starts.

"Eventually, I'd like to get back to being a starter," he said. "That's how I see myself, and I feel like that's what I'm good at."

He will have options this winter. Capuano entered this season with five years, 45 days of Major League service time and was promoted to the big leagues just in time to accrue the six full years he needs to qualify for free agency.

He's one of two longtime Brewers pitchers -- Dave Bush is the other -- who will be first-time free agents.

Capuano was 40-44 with a 4.38 ERA in 111 starts and four relief appearances for the Brewers from 2004-07 before he was injured. He went 18-12 with a 3.99 ERA in '05 and was a National League All-Star in '06.

This season has been about adjusting to relief.

"It's a totally different ballgame, being ready every day and figuring out the routine," Capuano said. "There are a lot of guys down there to learn from, [Trevor] Hoffman probably being the main one. He's a great guy to watch and emulate. It's different. It's a lot different."

McClendon making pitch to be part of 'pen

MILWAUKEE -- It's only been two appearances, but right-hander Mike McClendon has done his part so far to garner consideration for the Brewers' 2011 bullpen. There figures to be some open spots.

The Brewers are expected to decline options on Trevor Hoffman ($7 million, $500,000 buyout) and David Riske ($4.75 million, $250,000 buyout). Chris Capuano is a free agent and would like to pursue an opportunity to start again. Todd Coffey is once again arbitration-eligible after earning $2,025,002 this season, and he could be a non-tender candidate. Ditto for fellow righty Carlos Villanueva, who earned $950,000 this year and was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on July 28.

That leaves only closer John Axford, left-hander Zach Braddock and right-hander Kameron Loe in the category of "likely" to be back in Milwaukee. Veteran LaTroy Hawkins also belongs in that group, though the Brewers will not know about the health of Hawkins' right shoulder until he undergoes exploratory surgery on Friday.

The openings could mean an opportunity for somebody like McClendon. He worked three scoreless innings in relief on Saturday for his first Major League win, an outing that came seven days after a similar Major League debut in Colorado on Aug. 14. McClendon is only 25, and he owns a respectable 3.50 ERA in 164 Minor League appearances since the Brewers made him their 10th-round Draft pick in 2006.

"He has six weeks to get in there and show what he's got," said manager Ken Macha. "He definitely has some movement. He's a little funky with his delivery to upset the timing of the hitters."

But the Brewers favor power bullpen arms.

"I think everybody does," Macha said. "But I think everybody also values getting outs."

Ageless wonder Counsell plays 1,500th game

MILWAUKEE -- Sunday marked another milestone for Brewers infielder Craig Counsell. A day after turning 40, he played the 1,500th game of a fine career that spans 15 seasons and includes a pair of World Series wins.

"To be 40 and still playing says something alone for your career," said manager Ken Macha. "He's had a great year. Maybe some of his numbers are a little bit down, but when you're backing up a young guy [rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar], you get to play against the [Ryan] Dempsters, the [Adam] Wainwrights, [Chris] Carpenters, because you don't want to have that young guy exposed. The majority of his stats are against guys who are the top pitchers in the league."

Counsell is batting .244 this season and is hitting .303 (10-for-33) in the pinch.

Born in South Bend, Ind., but raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, Wis., -- where he still lives -- Counsell is a free agent after the season. He's been mentioned in recent weeks as a candidate for an August waiver trade to a contender.

Macha speaks of Piniella with respect

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ken Macha spoke with respect Sunday for Cubs skipper Lou Piniella, who announced early in the day that he was stepping down to spend time with his ill mother. Piniella had already announced last month that this season would be his last.

Cubs coach Mike Quade takes over the Cubs on an interim basis.

Macha and Piniella were American League West rivals throughout the 1990s and early 2000s -- Macha as a coach with the Angels and A's and Piniella as manager of the Mariners -- but they became close beginning in '03. That was Macha's first season as manager of the A's and Piniella's first with the Rays.

"Lou and I talked quite a bit over the years that I managed," Macha said. "I said this when he announced his retirement, that I admire the guys who have done this job for that long, [like] Bobby Cox and [Joe] Torre. This is not an easy job. I always enjoyed talking with [Piniella]."

Did Macha think Lou was burned out?

"I think he still loves the game, so I don't know about 'burned out,'" Macha said. "Everybody is a competitor. Everybody wants to have that win/lose situation every night, and that's a tough thing to give up. It's one of the luxuries of this job, you might lose on Saturday night but then you come fresh on Sunday with a chance to win. That's something I think he'll miss because of the type of competitor he is."

Worth noting

The Brewers will unveil a statue of former owner and current Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on Tuesday in front of a star-studded crowd. Dignitaries scheduled to appear include Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, who already have statues in the shadow of Miller Park, plus fellow Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Frank Robinson, former Brewers players Pete Vuckovich, Ben Oglivie, Ted Simmons, Jim Gantner, Gorman Thomas, Sal Bando and Dan Plesac, current Brewers reliever Trevor Hoffman, Dodgers manager Joe Torre, broadcaster Bob Uecker and a representative of nearly every Major League team. The ceremony, to begin at 1:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, is open to the public. ... Right fielder Corey Hart was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day Sunday with a tight right hamstring. He said he could have played, but manager Ken Macha opted instead for another day of rest ahead of Monday's off-day.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.