Looper’s back on schedule: He expects to pitch in home opener April 10

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McClatchy Tribune
Thursday, March 12, 2009
— Barring a setback, right-hander Braden Looper still is on track to pitch the Milwaukee Brewers’ home opener on April 10 against the Chicago Cubs.

Looper, who has been sidelined with tightness in his left oblique, took a big step toward game action Wednesday morning when he threw all of his pitches in a bullpen session. Unless the oblique problem resurfaces, manager Ken Macha said he expects Looper to be ready to begin the season in the starting rotation.

“If everything goes as planned, he’s got a chance of making his (first) start when the season starts,” said Macha. “He’ll have gone enough innings and pitches and all that stuff to make it.”

Macha has not announced his official rotation alignment but did say the current schedule would have Looper make his final spring start on April 5. That would line him up for the start against the Cubs in the home opener.

“It would be fun, that’s for sure,” Looper said of being introduced to Brewers fans in that game. “As long as I stay on this course, I don’t know what day exactly will be mine, but I’m sure I’ll be ready for it.”

First things first, however. Looper expects to face hitters in batting practice in a day or two, then pitch in a simulated game. After that, he’ll probably pitch in a minor-league game before being slotted back into the Brewers’ rotation.

“I’ve always said that I couldn’t fathom starting on the DL,” said Looper. “I feel good.

“We have an off day later on (March 24) and everybody was going to get an extra day (before the season). I think I’ll fit right in after that. That’s what I’m guessing.“

Of his bullpen session, Looper said, ”I felt good. I was a little fatigued at the end, but that’s going to happen. I only played catch for a few days.”

Just to be safe, Macha said he will keep right-hander Seth McClung stretched out as another starting option. He also said some of the projected starters for Class AAA Nashville will be sent to the minor-league camp at the end of the week to get more innings.

Hall getting close

Third baseman Bill Hall could see his first exhibition action this weekend since reporting to camp with a slight tear in his left calf. Hall has been participating in full workouts for several days.

“We’re pleased with his progress,” said Macha, who indicated Hall has plenty of time to get ready for the season.

Some of the other injured players are not as close to returning to action. Catcher Mike Rivera (hamstring strain) might not be ready until the middle of next week.

Catching prospect Angel Salome (intercostal strain) was allowed to hit off a tee but is still not ready to play. Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. (shoulder impingement) was allowed to play catch from 60 feet but is not ready to play in the field.

Fielder starting slow

Macha, who is still learning the habits and trends of many of his players, asked hitting coach Dale Sveum about some of the hitters who have struggled in exhibition play. One of those was first baseman Prince Fielder.

”Dale said he’s historically a slow starter,“ said Macha. ”He said you don’t have to worry about him.“

Fielder, batting .190 with no homers, went 1 for 2 with a walk in a 6-2 exhibition loss to the Chicago White Sox, blooping a double down the left-field line.

”I’m seeing the ball good; that’s the main thing,“ said Fielder. ‘’That’s why they have spring (training). I’ve been talking to guys like ’Cam’ (Mike Cameron) and (Craig) Counsell and ’JK’ (Jason Kendall), veteran guys. They say the last 10 days they dial it up. I’m going to start taking spring training like a veteran.“

Bush looks sharp

Right-hander Dave Bush tossed four strong innings in the 6-2 loss to the White Sox. He allowed two hits and no walks while striking out two.

Bush allowed only two hits and no walks while striking out two. He was so efficient with his pitches that he went to the bullpen after his four-inning stint to face a couple more ”hitters.“

”I feel good,“ said Bush. ”I’m just getting my pitch count up each time so when the season comes, I’ll be ready.“

Bush said it’s difficult getting the feel for one of his primary pitches, a curveball, because of the dry air here. But he throws it anyway and has been working on his change-up as well, a favorite pitch in camp under Macha and pitching coach Bill Castro.

”I’m just working on my conditioning,“ said Bush. ”I’m trying not to rush things too much (with an extra week in camp).“

The White Sox scored three runs off reliever Jorge Julio in the seventh inning to snap a 1-1 tie. Casey McGehee continued his strong spring (.450 average) by going 3 for 3.

McGehee is known more as a third baseman, but Macha said he could also serve as a backup second baseman and emergency catcher.

Last updated: 9:54 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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