Brewers going with young arms in their rotation

Brewers going with young arms in their rotation

MILWAUKEE (AP) Yovani Gallardo is expected to be the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers' rotation.

After that, the team faces some question marks.

Manager Ron Roenicke expects right-hander Marco Estrada to fill a spot. If Chris Narveson is recovered from shoulder surgery that limited him to just two starts a year ago, he'll be back in the rotation.

Gallardo made 33 starts in 2012, posting a 16-9 record and 3.66 ERA while striking out 204.

Prospects will compete for the final rotation spots.

Mike Fiers has the most big league experience of the group, starting 22 games last season while posting a 9-10 record and a 3.74 ERA.

Former No. 1 draft pick Mark Rogers, who has had injury issues, was 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 18 starts with Triple-A Nashville and 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts with the Brewers before he was shut down for the season.

After a slow start with Nashville, Wily Peralta made five starts late in the season with the Brewers and went 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA.

``Peralta has a huge upside,'' Roenicke said. ``If he pitches like he did a few of those games last year, he's got a huge upside.''

Milwaukee will also have depth in the minor leagues with Tyler Thornurg and Hiram Burgos.

Thornburg was Milwaukee's third-round draft choice in 2010 and has moved quickly through the system. He went 10-4 last year between Double-A Huntsville and Nashville and made a few appearances with Milwaukee during the season.

Burgos was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year last season, going 10-4 with a 1.95 ERA in 28 games with Nashville, Huntsville and Class A Brevard County, striking out 153 batters and walking just 49.

``The nice thing is we don't have just three guys for those three spots,'' Roenicke said. ``We've got two or three other guys we feel comfortable can do it. Going into it knowing that it's not just these three guys and you have to do it all year, we don't have to do that. We've got four guys we know can pitch in the big leagues for three spots.''

The Brewers are going with youth after trading Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels for prospects last season.

``I'm not saying it's a gamble,'' general manager Doug Melvin said. ``When I wake up every morning, it's a gamble. But we felt this was the time and opportunity to give them the ball. They all pitched very well. We like the ballclub. There were a lot of positives that took place in August and September of last season.''

Milwaukee looked for pitching help during free agency, showing interest in right-hander Ryan Dempster but the Brewers weren't willing to commit to a three-year contract and Dempster signed with Boston. Other candidates came with prices deemed a little too high, leading the Brewers to stick with what they have.

The Brewers' payroll was $101 million at the start of 2012 but the team decided to cut costs this year, leaving some wiggle room to add players as the season goes on.

``We saw last year with our ability to get back into the playoff race with two (wild cards), you can be seven or 10 games out at midseason and still have a shot,'' Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said.

``Now we are in position this year, even if we are back seven, eight, nine or 10 games, to add at midseason given where we have our payroll if we have the right kind of player come up depending how we see the division playing out at that time.''

Can a group of unheralded pitchers keep pace with the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central?

Melvin certainly thinks so.

The influx of young talent played a big part as the Brewers surged back into contention in 2012, finishing the season with a 27-13 record and going from 12 games under .500 to wild-card contention in the season's final weeks.

``We were encouraged by their performance last August and September,'' Melvin said. ``They performed well enough to give us confidence. The challenge is doing it over the course of the marathon season.''

Melvin and the Brewers also had to rework the bullpen over the winter.

Closer John Axford returns in 2013, after losing then regaining the ninth-inning role and finishing strong down the stretch. Midseason call-up Jim Henderson will open the season as the setup man, Kameron Loe, Manny Parra, Francisco Rodriguez left.

The bullpen was a big factor in the Brewers missing the playoffs as they led the majors with 29 blown saves. To shore up the bullpen, Melvin signed left-handers Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez from Washington and traded for Tampa Bay's Burke Badenhop.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short.