Gallardo has groin strain; WBC in doubt

PHOENIX (AP) — One of the biggest concerns Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has about letting so many of his players head to the World Baseball Classic is the possibility of an injury.

Turns out an injury could keep one of them from participating at all. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who is expected to anchor Mexico’s starting rotation, strained a groin muscle Tuesday against the Mariners, putting his availability for the tournament in question.

“We’re going to be cautious with him,” Roenicke said before Saturday’s spring training game against the Angels. “We’re making sure he’s 100 percent before he goes.”

Gallardo was scratched from a scheduled appearance Sunday against the Cubs and will instead throw a bullpen session for the Brewers. If that goes well, Roenicke said Gallardo will return from a series of meetings with Mexico to pitch in an exhibition game for Milwaukee on Tuesday.

The Brewers would then make a decision about whether to release him to play in the WBC.

“He’s going to go,” Roenicke said, “but he’ll come back and pitch an inning for us. He’ll go over probably for the meeting, a practice, and come back and pitch for us Tuesday.”

The former All-Star worked two scoreless innings against the Mariners in his first start of the spring, but he allowed a single and then back-to-back homers in the third. He rebounded to strike out Michael Morse before leaving after 45 pitches.

“For myself, I look at it as a positive,” Gallardo said of the WBC in a recent interview. “To go out there and compete again in these games gives me a chance to prepare and get ready for the season. I’ve never been a part of something like that so it will be interesting to see.”

Gallardo went 16-9 with a 3.66 ERA last season.

Roenicke also said outfielder Ryan Braun was sporting a bruise after fouling a pitch off his left knee Thursday, but the issue isn’t believed to be serious and should not affect his availability for the U.S. as it begins exhibition games next week.

“Every day it’s going to get better,” Roenicke said.

Roenicke couldn’t help but joke about how quiet the Brewers’ clubhouse is going to be next week once all their players dotting international rosters have departed.

Gallardo will be joined by right-hander Marco Estrada on the Mexican team, and Braun will have catcher Jonathan Lucroy with him playing on the U.S. Jeff Bianchi is playing for Italy, Carlos Gomez for the Dominican Republic, Hainley Statia for the Netherlands, Mike Walker for Australia, and Martin Maldonado and Hiram Burgos for Puerto Rico.

Then there’s Canada, which plays the Brewers in their exhibition game Tuesday.

Minor leaguers Taylor Green and Rene Tosoni will be joined by relief pitchers John Axford and Jim Henderson, who will be in the awkward position of throwing against their own teammates.

“It’ll be a little weird,” Roenicke said, “but I want those guys to pitch well.”

Roenicke acknowledged the challenge of losing so many players from spring training, and he believes WBC organizers may lower the number of players who can be taken from one organization.

The rules stipulate that no more than 14 can be selected from any organization, and no more than 10 can go from any active major league roster (including disabled list) unless the club grants permission.

The Brewers are one of the few teams bumping up against that upper limit, while teams such as the Mets and Athletics have just a single player involved.

“That limit is pretty high,” Roenicke said. “Certainly because it’s hurt us so much, if they drop that number a bit, it’d help us. … The advantage is we’re playing in games that really count with maybe getting some guys to progress a little farther, but obviously, the injury part is what’s important to me.”