Brewers' new-look rotation off to shaky start

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 14, 2013
The Milwaukee Brewers had plenty of questions about their starting rotation before the season. Veterans Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf were no longer on the team. The left the Brewers with Yovani Gallardo, young but promising Chris Narveson and Marco Estrada, and a handful of other prospects. The build-from-within approach was considered risky for the Brewers, but not many expected things to be this bad. Through the first 62 games, Milwaukee's starters rank last in the National League with a 5.29 ERA. With that kind of production, it comes as no surprise that the Brewers are 27-38 in the NL Central and just ahead of the last-place Cubs. ''I knew we would have some bumps along the way, that's what I figured. But I didn't think we would struggle like this,'' manager Ron Roenicke said. ''I thought Yovani would be really good, I thought Estrada would be solid. Picking up (Kyle) Lohse at the end, I thought was going to be huge. I thought there were going to be a lot of good games. We just haven't seen them.'' Right-hander Mike Fiers dazzled in 2012 before struggling late in the season. Highly touted prospect Wily Peralta appeared ready to contribute and former first-round draft pick Mark Rogers overcame his injury issues. Those performances gave Milwaukee's front office confidence to give the youngsters a shot in 2013. In spring training, the youth movement showed signs of trouble early. Rogers lost his velocity and eventually ended up on the disabled list. Fiers struggled with his command, was out of the rotation after just one start and was later sent to Triple-A Nashville. Peralta is 4-7 with a 6.03 ERA in 14 starts this season. Alfredo Figaro has been moved to the rotation and done well recently, holding opponents to eight runs in 17 1-3 innings in his three starts. Hiram Burgos was 0-2 but had a 2.70 ERA at Nashville before he was brought up to Milwaukee. With the Brewers, he went 1-2 with a 6.44 ERA in six starts before going on the disabled list. The veterans on the staff have also struggled. Gallardo's fastball has not been overpowering. Until going eight innings against the Marlins on Monday, he had worked more than six innings only twice in 13 starts. High pitch counts have been a frustrating issue for a pitcher considered to be the staff ace. Narveson has yet to start this season, recovering from injuries. Estrada ended up on the DL in the past week. There is blame to go around for the Brewers' lack of success. Milwaukee's offense, despite featuring four guys hitting at least .300, has a .247 average with runners in scoring position. Milwaukee has scored only 75 runs in the seventh inning or later, 13th in the National League. Lohse has dealt with a lack of run support. He is 2-6 in large part because his offense has provided just 2.64 runs per start prior to his outing against Philadelphia. ''It's a long season so you know there's going to have ebbs and flows,'' Lohse said. ''We're going to score runs sometimes, we're not going to score runs sometimes. ''As a starting pitcher, you have to go out there and keep your team in the game no matter how many runs they're scoring. That's your job. For the most part, I've been able to do that but you can't concentrate on that kind of stuff.'' The starters may have turned a corner in the past few games. Lohse went eight innings against the Phillies on Sunday and Gallardo followed with eight shutout innings at Miami. Peralta gave up three second-inning runs on five consecutive hits Tuesday, but recovered and allowed nothing else in six innings. Figaro went seven Wednesday without giving up a run. Even though the Marlins have the worst record (19-46) and second-worst offense in baseball, with the way things have gone for Milwaukee's rotation this season, it's a step in the right direction. ''If we're going to turn this around, that's where it's got to start, with starting pitching.'' Lohse said. ''I've talked to all the guys, we know we have to start doing a better job of keeping the team in games. If we keep it tight, our offense is going to be able to pick us up. But when we fall way behind, that's not good for anybody. It's too big of a hole sometimes to overcome.''
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