Newly acquired starting pitcher Zack Greinke threw one and a third innings in his inaugural spring training start for the Milwaukee Brewers. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, who requested a trade this off-season because he was tired of losing in Kansas City, threw 40 pitches and walked three. Greinke is coming off a disappointing year, going 10-14 with a 4.71 ERA; a large regression from his brilliance in 2009. The Orlando native will be looking to bounce back this season on a team that appears to be a legitimate contender in the NL central.
First-year manager Ron Roenicke has not officially named his opening day starter; his indecisiveness is an indication of the wealth of talent he has to choose from. Milwaukee has one of the best pitching staffs in the National League. The impressive group includes Greinke, Yovani Gallardo (a 14-game winner last year), Shaun Marcum (3.64 ERA last year - newly acquired from Toronto), Randy Wolf (a 13-game winner last year), and Chris Narveson. Greinke, Gallardo, and Marcum are all certainly capable of getting the nod on March 31 at divisional rivals Cincinnati.
The Brewers also boast a young, potent lineup. Putting aside the feared power bat of first baseman Prince Fielder, Milwaukee's lineup is replete with young talent. Left fielder Ryan Braun has been an All Star starter the last three seasons. Right fielder Corey Hart hit 31 HR and 102 RBI last year. Third baseman Casey McGehee (23 HR, 104 RBI last season) is one piece of a dynamic infield that includes slugging second baseman Rickie Weeks (29 HR, 83 RBI last season) and newly acquired defensive specialist Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.
In order to play october baseball, Milwaukee will likely need to win the NL Central (considering the likelihood that the wild card will come from the talented NL East). The Cubs are improved and Cincinnati is certainly on the rise. Also, despite losing ace Adam Wainwright, you can be assured that the Cardinals will be doing anything and everything - for the sake of keeping Albert Pujols - to stay in playoff contention. Yet, the Pirates will be the Pirates (Sorry, Pittsburgh) and the Astros are not ready to compete. So, Although this division is no cakewalk, Milwaukee has a legitimate shot to be on top at the end of September.
The aforementioned Fielder will be the key to the Brewers' postseason aspirations. Milwaukee will likely lose him to free agency at season's end. The 2009 Home Run Derby winner, however, has vowed that his focus is solely on helping his improved team reach the postseason. Fielder posted a career low average last season, .261, with 32 HR and 83 RBI. But, In the final year of his contract, there is reason to think that his offensive production will rebound.
The future looks bright in Milwaukee. With a strong, deep pitching staff and a young, versatile lineup, Ron Roenicke's crew has a strong chance to make their first postseason appearance since 2008.