Janesville47.8°

Fresh start for Suppan, Brewers

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Michael Hunt
March 25, 2009

Ken Macha recently indicated that Randy Moss would be the Milwaukee Brewersí opening-day starter.


Not only that, before making his first pitch on April 7 in San Francisco, Moss will turn his backside to the general direction of Wisconsin so that he might carry out a long-distance mooning of Lambeau Field.


Or so youíd think, judging by the reaction that Jeff Suppan most likely will assume the traditional position of honor that, in this particular case, is much more of a mark of practicality than distinction.


OK, you get it with Suppan. Outside of whoever is punting at the moment for the Green Bay Packers, there is no bigger lightning rod among the stateís professional athletes.


Thatís because on Christmas Eve 2006, Suppan signed what was then the largest contract in franchise history, $42 million for four years. But what youíve got to remember is that mega Milwaukee bucks a little more than two years ago amounted to the going rate for a decent No. 3 starter. And give the Brewers that, they never claimed they expected Suppan to be anything more than a middle-of-the-rotation guy.


Trouble is since the end of last August, he performed more like the No. 5 he has essentially become at an average of $10 million per. Beyond that, the Brewers wanted Suppan for his postseason experience should they actually reach that point. And when they did last season, Philadelphia lit him up in the National League Division Series elimination game. Part of the blame goes to Dale Sveum for trusting Suppan in that situation, but this is a new season and we move on.


At least that has been Suppanís story in spring training, and heís sticking to it. He has consistently refused to talk about his September to forget, which is fine. There is no point revisiting a past that will not put a millimeter more of movement on a fastball that, from Labor Day on, was flatter than the expanse that separated the Brewers from the division winner.


Itís also wasted energy to invest much thought into Suppan getting the baseball for the opener. Itís just the way the rotation lines up for now. Youíd much rather see it properly aligned for the final couple of weeks of the season than at the first of 162. Plus, the Brewers have this history of hitting Tim Lincecum. For matchup purposes for the rest of the series, it might not be such a bad way for the Brewers to begin the season.


Thereís also the matter of relieving initial pressure from Yovani Gallardo, but the Brewers canít be overly protective with their presumptive ace. Heís going to have to grow up in a hurry if anything is going to be made of a season with two big holes blown in the top of the rotation, because right now, if forced to commit with the business end of Ryan Braunís bat pointed at the noggin, youíd have say the Brewers donít have enough pitching to be a playoff team again.


It canít be taken on faith that attendance or the economy or success will again put them in the position to go out and rent a CC Sabathia. There is so much uncertainty surrounding the rotation that Suppan has to stay healthy and consistent during the third year of a contract that the Brewers cannot afford to regret. He has been a reliable professional pitcher before, and at 34 there is no choice except for him to do it again.


And, however temporary the designation might be, he might as well get restarted from the top.



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