MILWAUKEE With so many question marks surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers' pitching rotation for next year after several young starters broke out at different points throughout this season, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke may have made next year's picture a little less murky on Sunday morning.
"I don't think it'll be a free-for-all," Roenicke said of the impending rotation decisions. "I think when (general manager) Doug (Melvin) looks at trying to fit in those five guys and have some depth that he's going to figure out early on certain guys that are probably what we're going to go with. Whether he adds to that or sticks with all the guys we have, with (Chris Narveson) coming back, there's five guys plus (Yovani Gallardo) that probably we choose from. And if we add a veteran in there, we need three out of the five."
In addition to Gallardo and Narveson, Roenicke specifically mentioned that Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Mark Rogers, and Wily Peralta would be the ones competing for rotation spots. That equation most notably leaves out Shaun Marcum, who will be a free agent after the season, and Tyler Thornburg, a prospect with significantly less work this season than his fellow rookie pitchers.
Then, there's always the chance that a veteran is added to the mix -- something that Roenicke seemed on board with, considering the amount of youth in the picture already.
That veteran pitcher wouldn't likely be a top-shelf ace, but with guys like Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, and Dan Haren potentially available in the offseason, there could be a wealth of options that fit Roenicke's parameters. The Brewers manager specifically mentioned that he'd like to add someone who was high-character and could be a leader to the young guys in the rotation, like John Lackey was a leader for Jered Weaver when Roenicke coached in Anaheim.
"I think a character guy is important, to have a leader along with what Yo does here, I think that's important," Roenicke said. "If it was the right guy and we also thought in our rotation that he was an improvement or a consistent guy that may be an improvement over a young guy that we're maybe not sure about, yeah, I would think that would be good. But at what price is that? If we get that does it cost in getting a good bullpen guy or does it cost us in getting a couple good bench players? That's the thing that gets tough. There's a limit of stuff you can do."
Might that limit include former Brewer ace Zack Greinke? Roenicke isn't sure. Roenicke did, however, mention that he didn't expect the Brewers' to go after "a 5-year, 120 million guy," which is likely near what Greinke will command in free agency after the season.
But among the guys already on the roster, Roenicke seemed very pleased with how things have gone this season. He was especially pleased with Estrada's performance on Saturday night in which he went eight shutout innings and struck out 11 Astros' batters. That kind of performance, more than a standout spring training, will stick in his mind when he's helping put together the rotation next year, he said. After all, he'd always envisioned Estrada as a starter.
"I like a guy that has command," Roenicke said in reference to Estrada. "I like a guy that when (pitching coach Rick Kranitz) goes over a scouting report with him and he says, 'Hey, you can pitch this guy inside,' he's one of our few guys that can go out there and do what he says. The other guys, I don't know what's going a lot of times. It's nice to have that."
As for other guys potentially in the picture for next year's rotation, Roenicke said that he thought Fiers needed a good start on Sunday against the Astros to finish the year on a strong note. After tailing off in the last few months of the season, Fiers' finish could hurt his chances at being a part of the rotation next season.
"Unfortunately, you remember things by how they end," Roenicke said. "It's not necessarily always fair, but those things stick in your mind more."
Sunday also marked a big day for Narveson, who threw 20 fastballs of the mound for the first time since having surgery on his shoulder back on May 1.
"It's something a long time coming," Narveson said. "You come to the field and you've got a smile on your face, and you're ready to kind of get back after it and try to figure out how to get yourself ready to go again."
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