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12/14/10 5:07 PM EST
Marcum excited to begin tenure with Brewers
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Shaun Marcum is a Midwest guy, so he was happy to put on a Brewers uniform for the first time on Tuesday since his Winter Meetings trade from Toronto. He was even happier to be out of the gauntlet that is the American League East. "It's just a tough division," said Marcum, who met the Milwaukee media at Miller Park and now will spend most of his time tangling with teams in the National League Central. "I learned a lot about how to pitch. I think when you're in a division like [the AL East], you can't just go out there and throw. You have to pitch." He was even happier about the moves by the time the Winter Meetings were finished and the Red Sox had acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and signed free-agent left fielder Carl Crawford. Instead of seeing the Red Sox and the already-offensively potent Yankees for 36 games with the Blue Jays, Marcum will see them only six times with the Brewers. Milwaukee will travel to Boston and New York for Interleague series in 2011. "This is a new division for me, so I'm going to have to go out and learn the hitters, learn everything about this division," Marcum said. "I'm looking forward to that opportunity and that challenge." His focus has turned to the NL and to the Brewers, a team Marcum played against in 2008 but is otherwise unfamiliar. He called a couple of former Blue Jays who also played for the Brewers -- catcher Gregg Zaun and pitcher Dave Bush -- for scouting reports on his new teammates and his new home. Marcum also spoke with new Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and with principal owner Mark Attanasio. So far, so good. He's from Kansas City, and is looking forward to playing more games close to home. "This is kind of a dream come true to come back to the Midwest and get to play in a division and with a team that I think is very close to being in the playoffs like they were in '08," Marcum said. The key will probably be the pitching. Brewers starters ranked last in the NL with a 5.37 ERA in 2009 and improved to 4.65 in 2010 but still ranked next-to-last. With the offense mostly set, general manager Doug Melvin has made pitching his clear priority. He believes Marcum will slide in nicely with right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Randy Wolf atop the rotation, and Melvin feels good about lefty Chris Narveson in one of the back-end slots. But that leaves at least one hole to be filled and a lot of different options. Melvin has an offer out to free agent Chris Capuano and has had multiple conversations with the consensus top remaining free agent, Carl Pavano. Melvin spoke with agent Tom O'Connell about Pavano on Monday but has yet to make an offer. If Pavano goes elsewhere, Melvin is leaving open the possibility that one of his prospects will make the leap to the Majors. But adding Marcum makes Melvin feel much better about where the Brewers stand, two months shy of Spring Training. "Our No. 1 goal was to acquire more pitching for our ballclub," Melvin said. "Prior to going to the Winter Meetings, we had some activity going on, but this came as a little bit of a surprise, to be able to go acquire someone of Shaun Marcum's abilities." The teams had been talking about Lawrie prior to the Meetings, but Toronto was offering only prospects. When the Brewers started getting offers from other clubs for Lawrie, Toronto stepped up and offered Marcum. Melvin was driving home from a Milwaukee Bucks game when he called Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos to accept. "There were a couple of other deals that were very intriguing," Melvin said, "but they would have been prospects that wouldn't have been able to help our club this year or even next year, possibly." Marcum is a more immediate fix. He was 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA for the Blue Jays in 2010, his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Marcum missed all of 2009 while rehabilitating his arm, but returned to post career highs in innings (195 1/3) and strikeouts (165) while issuing only 43 walks, his lowest total since he walked 38 batters in only 78 1/3 innings in '06. "I don't know if the hitters are blind on the day I'm pitching or what it is," he joked. "I've been blessed. I've been able to locate all of my pitches and mix my pitches for strikes. I think that's one thing I did as a kid." He credited a coach -- Rick Fortuna -- for that. Marcum and his teammates were not allowed to throw breaking balls until they turned 13 or 14, so he learned to work with a fastball/changeup combination that is still his mainstay. Brewers fans will like this: Marcum also vowed to pitch inside. Some fans wanted to see Milwaukee's pitchers do more of that in 2010, when Brewers batters Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder ranked 1-2 in the Majors in plunkings. The Brewers are obviously banking on Marcum staying healthy. He's arbitration-eligible this winter after earning $850,000 last season, and will be arbitration-eligible again before the 2012 season. There's already been talk of exploring a contract extension with agent Jim Turner, who was on hand for Tuesday's press conference along with Marcum's wife, Stephanie.