Milwaukee Brewers name Yovani Gallardo opening day starter

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By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, March 14, 2014

PEORIA, Ariz.--Yovani Gallardo had not allowed the luxury of thinking he would get another opening day start for the Milwaukee Brewers.

“Honestly, I didn’t even think about it,” Gallardo said. “Coming into spring, we all know I didn’t have the year I wanted to last year.”

Despite that often-shaky 2013 showing (12-10, 4.18 earned run average), Gallardo was named the Brewers opening day starter for the fifth consecutive year Thursday by manager Ron Roenicke. Gallardo will face the Atlanta Braves at Miller Park on March 31.

Ben Sheets made six opening starts for the Brewers, but Gallardo is the first in club history to do it five times in a row.

Asked if picking Gallardo over candidates such as Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza was a difficult decision, Roenicke said, “Yes and no. I think ‘Yo’ has shown, if you just look at his winning percentage, even though we know he didn’t have the year that we thought he was going to have last year, he still was 12-10.

“The guy knows how to win. I think with him being on this club for a long time, with having the success that he’s had, we feel like he should be the guy that starts it. And Kyle was fine with it; Garza was fine with it. So it wasn’t that big of a deal.

“It does make a difference on a guy that you feel good about doing it, and has done it. I know they take it as an honor, and they should. It’s not mean to do that. What it’s meant to do is ‘Yo’ deserves to start opening day, and he’s going to start.”

Gallardo will be looking for his first opening day victory, having gone 0-2 with a 5.81 ERA in his previous four outings. He was in position for victories against Cincinnati in 2011 and Colorado in 2013 but the bullpen blew leads. Gallardo’s worst outing was in 2012 against St. Louis, when he was tagged for six runs in 3 2/3 innings in an 11-5 whipping.

“It’s definitely a privilege to have that opportunity,” Gallardo said. “As far as myself, I just showed up in spring training ready to go. This is going to be a big year for me. I have something to prove. I have to get back to throwing the ball the way I’d been throwing the previous years.”

Beyond Gallardo’s previous history as an opening day starter, Roenicke said part of the decision was because “he’s our guy.” In other words, Gallardo is a homegrown Brewer from the organization’s farm system. Lohse and Garza were free-agent signings.

“It means a lot,” Gallardo said. “To have the opportunity to do it five years in a row, it’s pretty amazing. It shows you what the organization really thinks of you, to allow that for five years. You can’t take it for granted. You have to go out there and take care of business.

“Any of the other four guys would have been able to do it (with) the kind of stuff they have and their track record. This organization has been great to me. They’ve stuck with me through good and bad.”

As for pitching amid the hoopla and ceremony of opening day, Gallardo said, “The only difference is it gets the season underway. The fans are excited; the players are excited. There’s a little extra emotion going into it.

“Having the opportunity to do it in past years definitely helps. You get that experience. You’ve got to go out there and perform. There’s a lot of extra adrenaline, but you’ve got to find a way to calm down and make pitches.”

Roenicke said Lohse would start the second game against the Braves but held off aligning the last three pitchers—Garza, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta—because he is looking ahead to the next series in Boston.

Asked if Garza likely would get the start on April 4 in Boston, Roenicke said, “Well, that’s what we’ve talked about, but that’s the guy that goes seven days (before his first start).

“I don’t want to say who’s better than whom, but say you have three guys that are really good or four guys that are really good, do you want to win every game you can as soon as you can, or do you back one of those guys off because he’s got more experience against, say, a Boston? He’s performed well against them (7-4, 3.83 ERA in 19 career outings, including 5-3, 3.81 at Fenway Park).

“Those are the things we’re looking at. Then it’s, OK, who’s better when we go to Philly? It gets to the point like you’re over-thinking things instead of maybe just winning the games as soon as you can. If those two are going the first two games, in the third game, should we just pitch the guy who has the best chance of winning that ball game instead of worrying about what’s going happen in Boston?

“They’re all good teams. So it’s almost like, ‘Just line them up and we’ll go.’”

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