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Three rotation jobs could be up for grabs in Brewrers' camp

The SportsXchange

There is little dispute as to what the Milwaukee Brewers' major weakness is entering spring training. The club's decision-makers have committed to filling the rotation with relatively inexperienced pitchers from their farm system, and many wonder if that calculated gamble will blow up in their faces.

By the end of camp, the Brewers hope to have five obvious choices for the rotation. It all starts with the only established pitcher returning -- right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who has a franchise-record four consecutive seasons with at least 200 strikeouts.

Manager Ron Roenicke has said that right-hander Marco Estrada also will be in the starting rotation. The former swingman did some fine work as a starter last year, with an excellent strikeout/walk ratio of 143/29.

After that, let the competition begin.

Left-hander Chris Narveson, returning from rotator-cuff surgery, will battle for one of the remaining three spots with three right-handers out of the system: Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers. Fiers pitched in the rotation for two-thirds of the 2012 season, while Peralta and Rogers were late-season call-ups who excelled in shorter trials.

The Brewers were dealt a blow before the start of camp when first baseman Corey Hart underwent knee surgery in late January, knocking him out of action until late May in all likelihood. He will be replaced by Mat Gamel, who began the 2012 season as the starter at first base before blowing out his right knee in early May.

The Brewers are giving 23-year-old Jean Segura the chance to prove he should be the everyday shortstop after a 44-game audition late last season. Should Segura flop, however, the Brewers have re-signed veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez to serve as insurance.

Another area of interest in camp will be the bullpen, which was rebuilt after finishing last in the majors in 2012 with 29 blown saves and 33 losses. Veteran lefties Tom Gorzelanny and Michael Gonzalez have been added to provide balance, and newcomer Burke Badenhop has been a successful sinkerballer who gets hitters to pound the ball in the ground. Closer John Axford and setup man Jim Henderson are back, but there is another job or two to be won in camp.

Lots of new faces will see action in camp because the Brewers have 14 players from the system, including all-star left fielder Ryan Braun, committed to playing in the World Baseball Classic. That group has 11 players from the 40-man roster, including catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado.

Otherwise, the lineup is relatively set with returning players from last season. There will be some bench jobs to be won, but that's almost always the case in spring training.
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