MILWAUKEE — Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson is fully on board with the team’s decision to move him to the bullpen instead of beginning the season in the team’s starting rotation.
Narveson was limited to just two starts last season because of a torn rotator cuff, and he doesn’t want to overdo things early in the season.
“I’m not reading too much into it,” Narveson said of the mutual decision. “It’s just one of those things where it kind of gives you a little bit of a break between here and kind of cranking things up.
“I’d much rather be strong and know I can go every fifth day come August and September than all of a sudden you are shut down due to innings or physically you just hit that wall.”
Narveson referenced the situation Brewers right-hander Mark Rogers faced last season when the team was in the heat of the playoff race. Rogers was in the rotation and pitching well, but the Brewers shut him down because he hit his innings limit coming off an injury.
Atlanta’s Kris Medlen implemented a similar plan last season in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Medlen spent the first four months of the season in the bullpen before moving into Atlanta’s rotation in August. He then ended up starting the Wild Card game for the Braves.
“If I had to start, I could do it,” Narveson said. “There’s no qualms about it. It’s one of those things like ‘Let’s look at this logistically from a smart point of view’. If we can do this, why not take advantage of it?
“If something happened tomorrow, I’d still be ready to go. It’s one of those things where you can sit there and be like we have a little bit of a luxury right now with our situation, take advantage of it and make sure you are ready to go when your name is called.”
Narveson was scheduled to start Saturday’s exhibition finale against the White Sox at Miller Park, but the Brewers are having him come out of the bullpen instead as sort of a dry run.
Roster set: The Brewers announced their Opening Day roster following Saturday’s 5-4 victory over the White Sox in the exhibition finale.
Only two spots offered any suspense, as right-hander Alfredo Figaro earned the final bullpen opening, and outfielder Khris Davis was picked for the final spot on Milwaukee’s bench.
Figaro, 28, was signed by the Brewers this offseason after spending the past two seasons in Japan. A power arm, Figaro appeared in a total of 13 games for Detroit in 2009 and 2010, posting a 6.54 ERA in 32 1/3 innings.
Edging out right-hander Donovan Hand to make the roster, Figaro earned the spot with a 1.84 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 14 2/3 spring training innings.
Davis became a safe bet to make the team when Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Friday that he wasn’t working to clear any more spots on the 40-man roster. Milwaukee had one open spot on the 40-man after losing Josh Stinson on waivers, and that went to Figaro.
Catcher and first baseman Blake Lalli would have needed a spot on the 40-man, while Davis already is on the roster.
A long shot to make the team at the beginning of camp, Davis forced the Brewers to consider him because of how he hit the ball. Not a big home run hitter in the minor leagues, Davis hit six home runs in Cactus League play, not counting one he hit in an exhibition game against Canada.
Davis, 25, hit .262 with six home runs and 16 RBI in 60 spring training at-bats. Rotation becomes clearer: With Narveson in the bullpen, Milwaukee knows the five pitchers in its rotation, but there was some cloudiness as to which pitcher would go when.
Things became a bit clearer Saturday when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta will start the season-opening three-game series against Colorado. Kyle Lohse will start either Friday or Saturday against Arizona, with Mike Fiers likely pitching the other game.
Fiers will pitch in an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday at Milwaukee’s spring training complex in Phoenix to get some work in. The Brewers still might skip the fifth starter’s turn in the rotation because Thursday is a day off.
“The off day really gives us an opportunity,” Roenicke said. “That fifth starter doesn’t have to pitch until April 9.”
Short on the bench: The Brewers will open the season with 13 pitchers on the roster, which means Roenicke will have just four players on the bench.
“I think if the starters are going length, there’s going to be somebody who’s not pitching,” Roenicke said. “We’ll see how it starts off. The first couple series will determine on what we want to do.”
Roenicke wants to drop down to 12 pitchers as soon as he can.
“When you look at a four-man bench and one of them has to be your backup catcher who you can’t afford to put in too early in games, you are really looking at a three-man bench,” Roenicke said. “In a National League game, that’s hard to do.”
Lefty catcher? It’s not often that a team has to use its emergency catcher, but it’s always a fun question to pose.
Who is Milwaukee’s emergency catcher this season? It’s none other than outfielder Logan Schafer. And yes, he’s left-handed.
“I’m making a call to get my left-handed catchers’ glove sent out,” Roenicke said. “I don’t know if it was high school, but he’s caught quite a bit it sounded like.”
Roenicke is left-handed and played the outfield in his big-league career, but he spent his youth baseball days pitching and catching only.
“I was a pitcher-catcher because our catchers were brutal and couldn’t catch the ball, so I had to catch,” Roenicke said.
The Brewers’ manager doesn’t understand the negative stigma placed on left-handed catchers. Not only does a lefty behind the plate look goofy because nobody is used to seeing it, there’s a belief throws would be more difficult because there are more right-handed hitters.
“You can still throw down,” Roenicke said. “If you are throwing to third you have to throw behind the runner anyway.
“I don’t why they (don’t have any). You certainly throw to first base better. When you go out to field a bunt you don’t have to spin, you just go out and field it and throw to first. I don’t know why it started, but now pitchers freak out a little bit. I would always catch bullpens in the major leagues and I would go out in between innings and catch guys and some pitchers would freak out. They don’t like it. It’s a bad visual for those guys.”