Brewers shuffle Narveson to bullpen

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Chris Narveson will open the season as the team’s long reliever and not in the starting rotation.

Narveson is recovering from shoulder surgery and a torn rotator cuff that cut his 2012 season to just two starts.

“We want to back off him a little bit,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Friday. ” … He’s OK, but he’s really been pushing through this thing in spring training.”

That means both Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta will open the season in Milwaukee’s rotation, along with Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Marco Estrada.

Because Lohse is just working his way into a groove after signing with the Brewers on Monday, Roenicke said Narveson could piggy-back off of Lohse for the first few weeks.

“In the long run, it’s probably going to help him out to limit his innings,” Roenicke said.

The Brewers have announced Gallardo, Estrada and Peralta will start the first three games of the season against Colorado, but there’s a slight chance Lohse could be ready to go as early as Wednesday.

He threw 3 2/3 innings against the Rockies on Thursday in Arizona and allowed just one run. The next step is to throw one or two bullpen sessions with the first one coming Saturday.

Roenicke said there’s a small chance Lohse could go Wednesday, but the team isn’t planning on that right now.

“Based on the timing of everything, I don’t want to throw everybody off just because I’m over here,” said Lohse, who went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA for the Cardinals last season. “I know we have the rotation set up for the first series. I’m willing to do whatever they ask of me. I’m ready to jump right in there.

“I think (Thursday) was a big day to show everybody where I’m at, and I think I passed that test. I feel good. It doesn’t matter when it is as long as it is in those first five games.”

Waiting until the end: The Brewers won’t announce their Opening Day roster until after Saturday afternoon’s exhibition game at Miller Park.

Milwaukee has one bullpen spot and one bench spot open on the 25-man roster.

“We know what we want to do,” Roenicke said. “We’re just going to the end for health reasons, to make sure something doesn’t come up last minute.”

Right-handers Alfredo Figaro and Donovan Hand are the candidates for the bullpen spot, while Blake Lalli and Khris Davis are fighting to make the bench.

The Brewers did clear one spot on the 40-man roster when Oakland claimed right-hander Josh Stinson off waivers Friday, and that spot will be used for either Figaro and Hand.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Friday that he isn’t working to open another spot on the 40-man roster, making Davis a safe bet to be on the Opening Day roster because Lalli would require another open spot on the 40-man roster.

Gallardo gets the nod: Last year, Roenicke was faced with a tough decision as to who his Opening Day starter was.

This year the decision was quite simple.

Gallardo will start his fourth Opening Day for the Brewers, moving him into second place in franchise history behind only Ben Sheets and his six Opening Day starts.

“I think Yo knows that he’s the guy,” Roenicke said. “He’s been the guy here for a long time. He’s stepped up. He’s taking control of that pitching staff verbally and what kind of workload he puts on himself. I’ve seen a guy who likes the challenge of what he’s doing.”

Though many believe wins are a useless stat, Gallardo made headlines this week by saying he wants to win 20 games this season. And though most pitchers would love to win 20 games in a season, Roenicke feels the goal is attainable for Gallardo.

“The consistency that he has, you have to have if you are going to win 20,” Roenicke said. “There can’t be any few-game slumps. There can be a one-game slump, everybody is going to have them. Yo has a chance to string off a lot in a row. He’s got on a few rolls since I’ve been here that I can easily see him winning 20 games.”

Yuni returns: Yuniesky Betancourt made his return to the Brewers in Thursday’s spring training game against Colorado.

The veteran infielder, who played with the Brewers in 2011 and with the Royals in 2012, doubled and homered in his first two at-bats, continuing his torrid spring and raising his batting average to .471.

Known for his aggressive nature, Betancourt has always been a free swinger, but Roenicke has noticed signs of a more patient approach in the few days Betancourt has been back with the Brewers.

Betancourt played winter ball in Mexico, where a large number of off-speed pitches are thrown. Roenicke feels that has a chance of helping him sit back a little longer at the plate.

“You have to be patient, you have to sit back (in Mexico),” Roenicke said. “(Thursday) he hit a curveball down the right-field line that he stayed back on and then he hit a home run on a changeup. That’s things that tell me he’s seeing the ball better and he’s staying back in the box.”

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