Last season, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked repeatedly about the team's lack of a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen.
Roenicke never seemed overly concerned with that, saying he'd much rather have a right-hander who pitches well than have a lefty just for the sake of having a lefty.
He likely won't face such questions this season.
The Brewers' bullpen will again be anchored by Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford, but with LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito gone, a host of other pitchers are hoping to step up and fill those roles.
Among that group are left-handers Manny Parra and Zach Braddock.
Having a left-handed specialist isn't a big deal to Roenicke, who prefers a pitcher who can work to batters on both sides of the plate.
"If it's a lights-out lefty specialist, that's different, but I would much rather have a guy that can get the right hand around," Roenicke said. "With Zack and his right fastball, that's going to happen. And same thing with Manny, with the live fastball with a split-finger. Yeah, he should be able to go through innings."
Overall, Roenicke is pleased with the way his bullpen could shape up.
"I like our bullpen," Roenicke said. "I like our pitching staff again. I know losing the two guys you talk about, but I think we did a nice job replacing (them), and I think one of the other guys who was hurt last year is coming back. I think that gives us, hopefully, the same as what we had last year."
Weeks is ready: Roenicke said Wednesday that second baseman Rickie Weeks appears to be back to full strength.
Weeks missed 39 games after suffering a severely sprained ankle July 27 against the Cubs. When he returned to the lineup in early September, Weeks was far from fully recovered but played through the pain and limped into the postseason, hitting .243 down the stretch.
Roenicke has no plans to hold Weeks back during spring camp unless the All-Star says he needs to rest but acknowledges that Weeks might be a slightly different player moving forward.
"I'm not planning on holding him back at all unless something turns up with it," Roenicke said. "Just personal experience, I tore up an ankle like he did, and it really never is the same. Now does that change the way you play? No, but you never have the total flash that you do before; you feel it more often. But it doesn't really affect what you do. It would be almost like a guy aging, just maybe he's a tad slower. I'm not saying that Rickie will be, but anytime you sprain an ankle that bad, it's never the same."
No news yet: There has been no decision yet on left fielder Ryan Braun's appeal of a positive drug test, leaving his status in doubt for opening day.
A verdict is expected before the team's first full workout, scheduled for Saturday, but in the meantime, his teammates have voiced their support.
"He's not here yet, so the media circus hasn't really hit us yet," pitcher Shaun Marcum said. "My personal opinion, I think he's going to win it, and when he does it'll be nice so he can deal with it one day with the press if he wants to and put it behind him. Then we can all put it behind us and go out there and focus on our job, which, like I said earlier, is getting back to the postseason. For now, we just focus on baseball and not worry about anything that happened in the offseason or anything like that, so it'll be nice when he gets here and we can go do all that."
Interviews for this report were provided by the Milwaukee Brewers.
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