3/25/2014 7:25 P.M. ET
Lots of lefties: Brewers to start with three in 'pen
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will begin the season with three left-handers available in the bullpen and already has a plan for his stable of southpaws: Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang will be the long man, veteran Zach Duke the lefty specialist and Will Smith will fit in with the late-inning setup options.
At some point in April, another left-hander could enter the mix. But Tom Gorzelanny is just beginning to throw off a mound following offseason shoulder surgery and is several weeks away from being game-ready.
Duke isn't worried about it being a crowded field.
"I was in a situation in Washington last year where I was the only lefty, and I didn't get used because of it," said Duke, who had just been informed he'd made the cut. "I feel like for a manager, the more options they have to play matchups, the more apt they are to do the matchups."
There will be plenty of matchup opportunities in the early going, as the Brewers begin the season against the Braves (with dangerous left-handed hitters Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward), Red Sox (David Ortiz) and Phillies (Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley).
Because of a clause in the collective bargaining agreement, the Brewers had to inform Duke on Tuesday morning whether he would make the team. He was in a similar situation with Houston in 2012, when Duke didn't learn until three or four days before Opening Day that he was being released.
This outcome was much happier.
"The difference from 2012 was I pitched my way off that team with the Astros, and I feel like I pitched my way on this one," Duke said. "I'm a different pitcher now, different role that I'm going to be in, differently equipped to take on hitters. I feel like this is a good fit."
Duke is still confident in his ability to retire right-handers, but had great success for the Reds at the end of 2013 as a lefty specialist. To fit that niche, Duke has added a cut fastball to his arsenal and has also begun throwing at various arm slots to "give hitters more to think about."
Asked whether making a club as a non-roster invitee was extra rewarding, Duke said, "It absolutely is. There's no consequences if they get rid of you. So yeah, being a non-roster guy, coming in and making a team, I feel like I definitely opened up eyes and made them believe in me. It's a very rewarding feeling."
Roenicke informed right-hander Tyler Thornburg and Wang before Tuesday's game against the Giants that they had made the team.
Wang, who has been comparing his bid to jump from a Rookie league last season to the Major Leagues in 2014 to swimming across the ocean from his home in Taiwan, remained unwilling to plant his flag on shore.
"I need to wait until Milwaukee," Wang said through his translator, Jay Hsu. "Milwaukee is the land."
Wang would not be the first Rule 5 Draft pick to make a dramatic jump to the Major Leagues, but his rise all the way from rookie ball is believed to be unprecedented. Famous past picks like Johan Santana and Joakim Soria were at the Class A level before they jumped to the big leagues.
"It feels so good," Wang said. "I don't know how to say it. It's like a dream come true. ... I still need to keep the same feeling. I can't get too excited, can't [worry] about screwing up."
Brewers' Opening Day roster pretty much set
PHOENIX -- Barring a last-minute addition or subtraction, the Brewers' Opening Day roster appeared set after the club optioned right-hander Rob Wooten and infielder Elian Herrera to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday morning and advised non-roster invitee Zach Duke he would make the team.
As a result of those moving pieces, it was apparent that Duke, Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang and right-handed prospect Tyler Thornburg had won the final three bullpen jobs, and that utility man Jeff Bianchi won the last spot on the bench.
Those were the only question marks remaining in camp.
"I think it's a benefit for everybody" to have decisions made early, manager Ron Roenicke said. "Sometimes you wait until the last minute because you really need to. I think when you're in these last couple days and [a player is guessing] and you've got a plane leaving Thursday, and he's thinking, 'Am I going or am I not?' it helps, even if it's not the decision he wanted."
The Brewers still have five days to formally file a 25-man roster, leaving the door open for trades, waiver-wire acquisitions or other circumstances that would prompt a change of plans, but, by the process of elimination, the roster currently looks like this:
Starting pitchers (5): Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta.
Bullpen (7): Closer Jim Henderson, right-handers Brandon Kintzler, Francisco Rodriguez and Thornburg, and left-handers Will Smith, Duke and Wang.
Catchers (2): Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado.
Infielders (7): First basemen Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, second basemen Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, shortstop Jean Segura and utility man Bianchi.
Outfielders (4): Left fielders Khris Davis and Logan Schafer, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Ryan Braun.
15-day disabled list: Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny.
Bianchi won his spot by batting .386 in Cactus League games entering Tuesday, with four extra-base hits and 10 runs scored. He was out of options, so in choosing Bianchi over Herrera, the Brewers preserved some organizational depth.
Duke won his job by holding opponents scoreless in eight of his 10 Cactus League appearances and was sensitive to the fact that his good news came at the expense of someone else. In this case, it was Wooten, who was trying to focus on positives after learning he had been optioned to Nashville.
"Of course, I'm devastated," said Wooten, who had a 3.90 ERA in 27 appearances for the Brewers last season. "You work so hard for this, and you pitch well last year and hope that will be enough. You come to Spring Training with one goal, and one goal only. And when that doesn't happen, you're devastated. But if you sit back and just sulk about it, that's not going to go anywhere. I'm going to go down, work my tail off, and when they need me, I'll be ready."
A 25-man roster must be formally filed to Major League Baseball by Sunday. The Brewers' season begins the following afternoon against the Braves at Miller Park.
Garza to make season debut at Miller Park
PHOENIX -- Rather than play the early-season matchups, the Brewers have decided to line up their top starting pitchers and let them go.
Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse were already tabbed to start the team's first two games against the Atlanta Braves, but Brewers officials had been considering holding top free-agent acquisition Matt Garza for Game 4 of the season -- a charged Red Sox home opener on April 4, when the Sox will get their championship rings. Garza has had great success at Fenway Park.
Instead, Garza will pitch the Game 3 against the Braves next Wednesday at Miller Park. Marco Estrada will work the Fenway Park opener, followed by Wily Peralta in the fifth game of the season.
"We're trying to put the three guys up front and just go more times with them," manager Ron Roenicke said. "The thing is, we have room that if we want to change it, we still can change it. If something comes up, we can still realign the three, four and five pitchers. I want to keep options open."
After Estrada and Peralta pitch the first two games in Boston, Gallardo will come back for the finale. Lohse would then start the Phillies' home opener April 7.
• Doctors pulled more spines out of Rodriguez's cactus-infested left foot Tuesday morning, before Rodriguez got some work in a Minor League game. Many more spines have yet to emerge, but Rodriguez is feeling much less discomfort in recent days, Roenicke said.
• The Brewers had hoped to have Segura back in the lineup Tuesday, but he needed another day to strengthen his sore throwing shoulder. Segura has been getting at-bats in Minor League games and was able to take part in the team's daily throwing program.
• Seven Minor League players will accompany the Brewers on their charter flight to Milwaukee, where the team will play a pair of exhibition games against the Royals at Miller Park. The players are pitcher Dustin Molleken, infielders Irving Falu and Herrera, catcher Lucas May and outfielders Kevin Mattison and Michael Ratterree.