Seems like there are only about six baseball players who manage to avoid the disabled list every year. Zack Greinke isn’t one of them.
Of course, everyone knew it would happen eventually. I was only half joking when I suggested the other week that the Brewers pick up Kevin Millwood now to fill in for whomever would get hurt down the road. Fortunately, Greinke’s cracked and bruised ribs (injuries he received in a game of pickup basketball, of all things) aren’t expected to keep him out for more than four weeks. But that’s long enough that Greinke will likely miss opening day. So what do the Brewers do in the meantime?
Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, Shaun Marcum and Chris Narveson are the pitchers still standing. My guess is Roenicke decides to start Gallardo on opening day, followed by Marcum and Wolf in games two and three versus the Reds. That would give us Narveson for the home opener. Not exactly a name that inspires a ton of confidence in the fans. But hey, if that’s how it shakes out, good for the kid.
So who becomes the #5? Manny Parra, who has been maddeningly inconsistent in his past starts, is pretty much out of the question. I get the sense he is now exclusively a bullpen arm, a role in which he was very effective last year. Besides, he’s only pitched a third of an inning in Spring Training due to lower back tightness.
Mark Rogers, one of the Brewers’ big-league-ready prospects, hasn’t pitched at all this spring because of shoulder tightness. Shoulder injuries have sidelined him for a few years now, so you can expect the Brewers to take a cautious approach. No help here either.
I’ve heard Wily Peralta’s name mentioned as a spot-start candidate, but I’m skeptical he’s the right guy. Although he has logged more innings than many other candidates, those innings have been pretty unremarkable; in 42 innings of AA ball last year, Peralta pitched a respectable 3.61 ERA, but had almost as many strikeouts (29) as walks (24). And he hasn’t really distinguished himself this spring, either, with a 4.50 ERA in four innings and 3 walks to 1 strikeout.
But I am intrigued by two other guys: Brandon Kintzler and Mark DeFelice.
Kintzler was signed by the Brewers in 2009 and was immediately placed with AA Huntsville. Since then, he’s had stints with AAA Nashville and appeared in 7 games for the Brewers last year. Kintzler didn’t do so hot with the big league club (7.36 ERA in 7.1 innings with 9 K to 4 BB), but has some impressive minor league stats (2.95 ERA with a 5.50 K/BB ratio in 2 AA seasons; 2.36 ERA with a 3.50 K/BB ratio in 1 AAA season). He’s performed admirably so far this spring, too, with a 1.59 ERA over 5.2 innings with 3 strikeouts and no walks.
Everyone probably remembers Mark DiFelice, who last pitched for the Brewers in 2009. He lost the entire 2010 season to shoulder surgery and is currently on a minor league contract with a spring training invite. DiFelice has made the most of it, going 3 innings with a 3.00 ERA with 5 K and 1 BB. DiFelice was pretty decent with the Brewers in 2009, too, making 59 appearances for a 3.66 ERA and a 3.20 K/BB ratio.
What’s clear is that someone who didn’t necessarily expect to pitch in the big leagues at the start of spring training might very well get an opportunity here. Both Kinsler and DiFelice have shown promise and are likely making an impression on the Brewers’ new skipper, which could help their chances considerably.