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News » MICHAEL HUNT IN MY OPINION Arms lift early gloom

MICHAEL HUNT IN MY OPINION Arms lift early gloom

MICHAEL HUNT  IN MY OPINION  Arms lift early gloom
About that starting pitching that was supposed to be the downfall of the Milwaukee Brewers this season . . .

"People were saying, 'Ben and CC are gone, how are you going to recover?' People forget, we didn't have Yovani (for almost all of) last year. And I think Ben was 3-7 after we got Sabathia. How many starts did Sabathia have? Seventeen? It's not like we had them both for the entire year."

That was general manager Doug Melvin on the post-CC Sabathia/Ben Sheets rotation that is about to have Yovani Gallardo for an appreciable part of May for the first time. True enough, Sheets again bailed in the hour of need, Gallardo became the first pitcher in major league history with a 0-0 record to start a postseason game and, as for Sabathia, how can you lose what you never really had?

The record will show that, before the start of business Thursday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Brewers had won seven of eight. Part of that had to do with the fact that they have hit more home runs than any National League team except the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, but you probably knew that. Part is attributable to a defense that is no longer an issue, but again . . .

About the starters, Melvin had another rhetorical question.

"If someone would ask, 'Who has taken three no-hitters into the eighth inning in their career, Ben Sheets or Dave Bush?' "

This wasn't Beat Up On Sheets Night at Miller Park, but the fact of the matter is that starting pitching, Version .09, is beginning to show signs of promise, durability and reluctance to wear out the bullpen. At the same time, it is May. And there is the question of how much rope to give Manny Parra.

Parra, who starts Friday night against the Diamondbacks, has taken only one game this season into the sixth inning. He is 0-4 with a 6.52 earned run average, but if you had to guess, it's the psychological part of the game that is impeding his progress. Then again, he'll be 27 in October.

"If he didn't have the physical skills, I might say, 'Yeah, maybe he could go the other way,' " Melvin said. "But there's too much up side to give up on him. He has the physical skills to be successful.

"I think it's a matter of him getting on a roll. He's got that kind of stuff that if he gets on a roll, he could take off like Yovani did. People talked about Zack Greinke for two years. He's had success before. He was very good last year. There's no reason why he can't do it again."

The same could've been asked of Jeff Suppan, who was on a Parra-like roll from last September until recently at roughly 24 times the price. But against Arizona, Suppan was again the stabilizing professional the Brewers hired him to be with his third consecutive quality start. Notwithstanding a leadoff homer, Suppan ceded nothing into the seventh inning.

It was then that the offense finally took flight with Mike Cameron and his bases-loaded double. Again, you knew they would hit, but this climb up the standings has been as much about starting pitching as anything.

"The definition of an ace is a guy who can go out there and give the rest of the guys a day off," manager Ken Macha said of Gallardo's gem on Wednesday.

Suddenly, it's applying to more than the No. 1.


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Added: May 1, 2009

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