Without any big additions, Brewers pitching staff prepares for 2018
PHOENIX -- All winter long, the Milwaukee Brewers were mentioned as a potential landing spot for just about every free agent pitcher as well as those potentially available on the trade market.
But when pitchers and catchers took the field at Maryvale Baseball Park for their first workout Thursday, the group looked very much as it did last year.
Milwaukee did add right-hander Jhoulys Chacin on a two-year deal while veterans Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley will need to earn their way onto the roster after signing minor league deals.
Chacin will slot in with Chase Anderson and Zach Davies to fill out the top three spots in Milwaukee's rotation, leaving Gallardo and Miley, along with Brent Suter, Junior Guerra and rookies Aaron Wilkerson and Brandon Woodruff to battle it out for the final two spots in the rotation.
"We think we have quality arms that will break with our team and quality arms in the minor leagues," general manager David Stearns said. "That's comforting to us because we think we have the kind of depth needed to get through a major league season."
Milwaukee's second-round pick in the 2004 draft and the franchise record-holder for Opening Day starts, Gallardo was traded to Texas before the 2015 season -- kick-starting the Brewers' current rebuilding process -- but struggled the last two seasons for Baltimore and Seattle.
"The past couple of years, they haven't gone my way," Gallardo said. "I'm not satisfied with that. I have to go out there and compete at a high level."
It's a similar situation for Miley, whose deal wasn't official pending a physical examination, but is expected to report to camp Friday.
"Clearly, the last two years haven't been as successful, but we have some ideas why and he has some ideas why," Stearns said "He's coming into camp to compete, he's coming in to see if he can earn a spot here and if he can, that's great."
He'll be one of two left-handers battling for a starting spot along with Suter, who manager Craig Counsell said has "a leg up" on the competition based on his work the last two seasons including last year, when he went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 22 appearances, including 14 starts, while bouncing back-and-forth between Milwaukee and Triple-A Colorado Springs.
That group will get a boost when right-hander Jimmy Nelson returns after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. He participated in fielding drills Friday and has been throwing on flat ground from as much as 50 feet but there's still no definitive timetable for his return.
"As of now, I'm still ahead of schedule," Nelson said. "Being around these guys and getting into a routine is half the battle. I've never gone through this process, so I'm on this ride for the first time. There's a comfort level being here with the staff."
With Nelson expected to miss a "chunk" of time next season, the Brewers were expected to pursue an additional starter over the winter and reportedly made an offer to Yu Darvish, before he eventually signed with the division rival Cubs.
Milwaukee also was believed to have shown interest in former Cubs' ace and free agent Jake Arietta and was linked to potential trades for Tampa Bay's Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.
Instead, though, pitchers and catchers began their preparations without any high-profile additions and barring an unexpected twist, the Brewers will likely open the season with the group they have.