Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/22/12
MILWAUKEE -- Despite pitching mainly out of the bullpen in 61 of the 70 games he's been a part of in the major leagues, Brewers pitcher Marco Estrada said he had always thought like a starter. And after 78 pitches as Saturday's starter in the Brewers' matchup with the Rockies, Estrada looked an awful lot like one, too. "Estrada did the same thing he did for us last year," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He comes in and gives us a lot of innings with a lot of zeroes." There were plenty of zeroes lining the scoreboard when Estrada's five innings had been completed, as the right-hander allowed just two hits and one earned run in the outing, with just one Troy Tulowitzki home run in the fourth inning ruining what would've been a scoreless outing. Estrada admitted that he was nervous before his first start of the season, but those nerves quickly faded away after what turned out to be one of his best innings pitched in his career. He took eight pitches to strike out Rockies' leadoff guy Marco Scutaro and four more pitches to strike out the next batter, Dexter Fowler. And with Rockies' All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez at the plate, Estrada delivered a deadly fastball with two strikes to finish the inning by striking out the side. With that pitch, Estrada brought the sold-out crowd at Miller Park to its feet. Expectedly, his nerves washed away after that, he said. From there, the same fastball proved to be nearly unhittable, as Estrada struck out a career-high nine batters, having faced just 17 in five innings. And by showing his changeup just enough to make batters back off from expecting fastballs, his fastball became even more effective as the game went on. "(His fastball) had some giddyup in it," Roenicke said. And with his fastball working, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy says that Estrada can be a very legitimate threat as a starter in their already deep pitching staff. "I'm telling you, he's a legitimate starter in the big leagues," Lucroy said. "He can be a top-line, front-line guy. It's just with this team we're so deep on the starter side that he's forced to be in the bullpen. But he can get the job done every night." With No. 5 starter Chris Narveson on the 15-day DL and possibly out for even longer, Estrada may just get that chance. He started seven games last season filling in for Narveson and Zach Greinke, among others, but if Narveson's rotator cuff injury requires surgery, Estrada could become the rotation's final starter sooner rather than later. Roenicke said before Estrada's impressive start that, if Narveson were to be out longer than his stint on the DL, that Estrada has the fast track to becoming the team's fifth starter. "I think it's his spot," Roenicke said. I don't want to say its 100 percent his, but that's what we plan on doing. But right now, with what he did for us last year, I'd say it's his spot. And with five strong innings in his first start of the season, Estrada looked to have proved Roenicke's words to be true. He may indeed have a strangehold on that spot for the time being.Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
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