MESA, Ariz. Another day in Arizona, another strong performance by a member of the Milwaukee Brewers' rotation.
Wednesday was Randy Wolf's turn to start and, as the Milwaukee starters have all through Cactus Legaue play, the veteran left-hander was outstanding, scattering five hits and a walk over four innings with four strikeouts in a 10-2 win over the Cubs at HoHoKam Stadium.Wolf allowed two runs in his final inning, but those runs were of little concern to Wolf who was happy with with his location and the progress he's made this spring.
Through the first 11 Cactus League games this spring, the Brewers' four available regular starters Wolf, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Chris Narveson (Shaun Marcum has yet to make an appearance due to shoulder soreness) and spot starter Marco Rivera combined for a 0.79 earned run average.
After Wolf's two-run outing Wednesday, that number is up to a still-respectable 1.34. Wolf and the rest of his fellow starters are quick to downplay spring statistics this is a time most pitchers use to build themselves into strong enough shape to throw 100 pitches every five days.
In spring training ... those results aren't on the back of our baseball cards," Wolf said ."The big thing is we're healthy and we're throwing well."
It's not been hard to notice that good things have been happening.
The one thing we've been doing is pounding the strike zone," Wolf said. If we go out there and throw strikes, stay aggressive ... we'll have good results."
Wolf also had a good day at the plate his first offensive appearance of the season going 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Bullpen battle: With opening day still more than three weeks away, the battle for the last two spots in the Brewers' bullpen remains wide open.
Some of the leading candidates to fill those roles have been scuffling. Right-hander Frankie De La Cruz has an 18.90 ERA in his three outings this spring and could be left on the outside looking in when the regular season begins April 6 against St. Louis at Miller Park.Another right-hander, Tim Dillard, has shown improvement of late but overall has struggled and owns a 6.35 ERA in his four Cactus League outings (5.2 IP)."We have an idea what we think is going to happen but I think it could go down to the end," manager Ron Roenicke Wednesday morning. "It's still pretty early. I'm not wanting to make judgments on things this early. I need these guys to be good when we're about ready to start the season."Neither player has minor league options remaining so they would have to clear waivers before the Brewers could outright them to the minors.
Veras all but in: For the time being, Roenicke has the last three innings of games covered with closer John Axford, set-up man Francisco Rodriguez and it looks like right-hander Jose Veras has all but locked up the seventh-inning job.Veras threw another scoreless inning Wednesday, striking out Chicago catcher Wellington Castillo on three pitches all looking in the sixth. In four outings this season (four innings pitched), Veras has allowed just an unearned run on two hits with three strikeouts.His breaking ball is really scary for a right-hander," Roenicke said. It looks like a fastball coming right at them and has a nice break on it. His fastball, today, was a little better down in the zone but he's been up a little more than I think he wants to. His stuff is really good. I think we're going to be very happy to have this guy."Braun, Ramirez sit out another road game: Roenicke was asked when Ryan Braun or Aramis Ramirez would appear in a Cactus League road game. Roenicke has been using an every-other-day approach with Braun as he prepares to defend is 2011 NL Most Valuable Player Award."Aramis told me, especially the last week, he's going to need to he in there almost every day to get ready," Roenicke said. With (Braun) it really depends on how he's swinging. Last year, he was really locked in early in camp and had a little issue going on health-wise and we backed him off. But he was swinging so well that we really didn't need him to play a lot.""I try to go every other day with them. If it was the trips to Tucson we're making that trip Friday but in years past we've always had to make two trips down there, I'd try to leave the veteran guys here. But these trips aren't far enough to think about where we're going. They're basically all close enough that I don't worry about that."Injury report: X-rays on RHP Brandon Kintzler's sore right arm came back negative and he will undergo nerve testing Thursday to try and identify the source of his injury ... LHP Juan Perez has been released from a hospital where he had been recovering from a partially-collapsed lung. He will be unable to participate in any activities for the next week ... C Mike Rivera is battling a strained right hamstring ... Good deeds: The Brewers' clubhouse at Maryvale Baseball Park looked like Christmas Wednesday morning. The players collected toys which will be donated to children through a nearby church.Roenicke said the idea came from his days working with Mike Scioscia in Anaheim."It's a fun thing for the guys and we know where it's going afterwards," Roenicke said. "I really liked it and we found a church that really helps out the kids in the neighborhood, right down the street." He said it: It was 'Wolfattaras' out there today." LHP Randy Wolf on the combined offensive output of himself and catcher George Kottaras. The duo went 4-for-6 with two doubles, a run scored and 6 RBI Wednesday.On Deck: The Brewers return to Maryvale Baseball Park Thursday as Chris Narveson (0-1, 1.59 ERA) takes on the San Diego Padres, who will start right-hander Dustin Moesley (1-1, 3.60).