Decisions for Maryvale #2 & #3
Most predictions that I've seen have it as Sheets, Capuano, Suppan, Bush, and Vargas...while Sheets is a given, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Jeff Suppan will be bumped up to #2 in the rotation, due to:
1. He has more experience (12 seasons, 317 games and 1864.7 IP vs. 4 seasons, 95 games and 561.7 IP for Capuano)
2. He's getting paid more ($7.0 million vs. $3.25 million for Capuano)
3. He's older (32 years old vs. 28 years old)
4. His latest numbers, e.g. stats after last year's All-Star break, are better (6-2, 2.39 ERA, 55K's and 30 BB's vs. 1-8, 5.17 ERA, 62K's and 22 BB's).
Adam McCalvy (I think) pointed out that Dave Bush might also be moved to be the #5 starter, for the primary reason that Bush did come out of the bullpen early last season and had no troubles adjusting to the starter's role later on...again, too, Vargas has more experience than Bush (4 seasons, 124 games, and 532.3 IP vs. 3 seasons, 75 games and 444.0 IP), as well as being paid more ($2.5 million vs. $425,000). While Vargas did have one relief appearance last season, Bush only made 2 relief appearances ...Vargas' stats as a starter were 12-10, 4.89, with 121 K's and 52 BB's vs. Bush's 12-10, 4.25, 163 K's and 38 BB's. Bush's numbers should warrant him being the #4 starter, but I suspect that how each does in Maryvale will make the final determination.
There's no doubt that, barring a trade or injury, Derrick Turnbow, Matt Wise, Brian Shouse, and Jose Capellan will be in the Brewers' bullpen alongside closer Francisco Cordero come April 2nd, as will the 5th starter...at least through the first game of the Cubs' series on Friday, April 6th. Odds are that Ned Yost will keep an additional middle reliever at the start of the season, with Dennis Sarfate having the inside track due to him (1) being out of minor-league options and (2) the need to either determine if he has the stuff to stick around in "The Bigs" and/or to showcase him as trade bait. Sarfate only saw 8.3 IP in 8 games for Milwaukee last year, with a 4.32 ERA, 11 K's and 4 BB's, after going 10-7, 3.67 ERA with 117 K's and 78 BB's in starts and relief appearances while at AAA Nashville. The soon-to-be 26 year-old righty had 21 starts with 13 relief appearances in Nashville, and pitched 30.3 IP in 26 games all in relief in winter ball, and allowed 0 ER in his last 12 games and 15.3 IP while pitching for Hermosillo in the Mexican Winter League and the Carribean Series. The job appears to be Sarfate's to lose, but he will be challenged by Greg Aquino, Grant Balfour, Chris Spurling, and Carlos Villanueva during Cactus League play.
The final part will be if skipper Ned Yost and pitching coach Mike Maddux feel the need to add a 12th pitcher to the 25-man roster once the 5th starter will be needed after April 6th. As usual, whoever is picked will not only not get playing time in Nashville, but would likely be earmarked as a reliever for the long-term...my guess is that GM Doug Melvin would prefer that Villanueva stay in Nashville to hone his skills as a starter, meaning Aquino, Balfour or Spurling is more likely to get the nod, with Spurling, the 29 year-old non-roster invitee, being a long-shot...and assuming that the Crew can resolve their 6th outfielder issue....
The next two decisions that Doug, Gord, Ned, Mark and--for these decisions--Mike Maddux, will have to make are related to each other, so I'm putting them together:
2. What will the rotation be, and,
3. If the 5th starter will be used as the temporary 6th middle reliever, who should it be AND when that 5th starter is needed, who will/should the additional reliever be?