With an off day today, Brewers GM Doug Melvin, skipper Ken Macha, and pitching coach Rick Peterson are, we hear, deciding the 12 pitchers to keep for opening day. In his blog, JSOnline.com writer Tom Haudricourt makes his prediction about the Brewers' 25-man roster on April 5, which I think he nails on the head--even the part about sending reliever Carlos Villanueva to AAA Nashville to keep Manny Parra and Chris Narveson, who are both out of minor-league options. I also agree with him on the entire roster--all 12 pitchers and all 13 positions players, as well as his acknowledgment that Jim Edmonds is still undecided about playing.
Furthermore, he nails the #1-#3 starters for the Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf, and Doug Davis (personally, I'd start the veteran Wolf ahead of Gallardo so as to have your veteran take on the role of "ace" plus not have two lefties back-to-back in Wolf and Davis, but Macha has already decided against this). Haudricourt even, I think, correctly surmises that the Brewers will opt for a right-handed pitcher for the #4 spot, so as not to have three southpaws in a row. But Haudricourt picks Jeff Suppan as the Brewers' choice, largely because of his experience and large contract.
I think Macha will be bold and go with Dave Bush for the #4 starter.
First, some qualifiers: Of the four pitchers vying for the last two spots, I think Chris Narveson has done the best and shows the most promise, with Manny Parra close behind. We've pretty much seen what Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush are capable of over the past two seasons and--unless Rick Peterson is a miracle worker--neither Suppan nor Bush are capable of 15 wins or an ERA of under 3.50. Parra has yet to prove that he can, as well, but at least there is some hope still at this point.
And while Cactus League stats are rather meaningless, it is hard to ignore that Bush has a 2.13 ERA over 12 2/3rds innings, while Suppan has a 9.00 ERA over 12 innings; Suppan has given up 6 HR's versus none for Bush. True, Suppan's 9 K's are better than Bush's 5, but Suppan is allowing 1.5 hits/IP against a mixture of regulars and minor-league hitters.
As for the 5th starter, Macha has the luxury to see how Suppan, Narveson, and Parra do in long relief before naming him for the April 18th game at Washington. My guess is Suppan gets this slot and the first of about 5 starts to see if he still has anything left as a starter.
Caveat: Haudricourt is much more familiar with the demeanors of certain players and the chemistry of the team, which means he may opt for the veteran Suppan for the #4 starter role and the Friday, April 9 game against his former team, St. Louis. The benefit to doing this: earlier knowledge if Suppan can be effective as a starter or not. Suppan would also draw the Wednesday, April 14 game at Wrigley...so by making Suppan the #4 starter, Macha would know four days earlier how Suppan stacks up against the two best opponents in the division...nice, but I still hope it is Bush.