Milwaukee Yovani Gallardo was on a holiday vacation with his family in Cozumel, Mexico, when he received a text message from his brother in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Brewers have traded for Zack Greinke.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,” said Gallardo. “I had to look at it twice.”
Of all the players on the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster, no one has been impacted more than Gallardo by the team’s dramatic pitching moves this winter. With the additions of Shaun Marcum and Greinke, the 24-year-old right-hander no longer stands alone atop the starting rotation.
Basically by default, Gallardo was pushed into the No. 1 role in the rotation at a very young age. Now, with Marcum and Greinke in the fold, the Brewers have three pitchers who started on opening day in 2010. Marcum did the honors for Toronto and Greinke in Kansas City.
Gallardo, of course, drew that assignment for the Brewers.
“That’s pretty good,” said Gallardo. “I hadn’t even thought about that. It’s pretty exciting.”
After missing most of the 2008 season with a freak knee injury, Gallardo went 13-12 with a 3.73 earned-run average in 30 starts in ’09, becoming only the fourth pitcher in team history to record 200 strikeouts (204 in 1852⁄3 innings). That year, then-new manager Ken Macha didn’t think the young Gallardo was quite ready for an opening day assignment and gave it to veteran Jeff Suppan instead.
Last spring, Macha figured Gallardo was ready and gave him the opening assignment against Colorado at Miller Park. Gallardo dropped his first two outings before getting on track and forging a 14-7 record with a 3.84 ERA in 31 starts, with 200 strikeouts in 185 innings.
So, has Gallardo pondered to whom new manager Ron Roenicke will give the ball on March 31 in Cincinnati?
“Not really,” he said. “That’s not up to me. That’s not my decision. All I can do is go out and pitch.
“With three opening-day pitchers on the staff, that’s a good problem to have.”
The additions of Greinke and Marcum will give Roenicke many options as to how to align his starting rotation. The general thinking is that Greinke, Gallardo and Marcum will line up in some fashion as the top three, with left-handers Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson at the bottom of pack.
Asked how he might line up his rotation to open the season, Roenicke smiled and said, “It’s too early to say that, simply because things happen in spring training.
“Sometimes, you may have one guy planned to do that who has a setback and all of a sudden he gets into a different rotation.”
While it might seem odd to line up three right-handers atop the rotation, followed by two lefties, rather than splitting them up, Roenicke said not necessarily so. Marcum, for instance, has an off-speed repertoire that makes him very tough against left-handed hitters (.190 batting average in 2010).
“Our righties are different,” said Roenicke. “They’ve got a lot of different pitches so where they’re not the same guy the (other) team will see the night before.
No matter how the alignment shakes out, Gallardo knows the Brewers will be much more competitive in 2011 in terms of starting pitching. Their rotation compiled a 4.65 ERA last season, next-to-last among the 16 clubs in the National League.
“We all know our starting rotation is going to be much stronger,” said Gallardo, who signed a five-year, $30.1 million contract extension early last season.
“It’s only going to make the team better. We’re all trying to achieve the same goal. It’s very exciting when you think about it.”