Former All-Star Capuano back with Brewers

Joining fellow lefty Jimenez as NRI with Minors invite, veteran to compete for rotation

Former All-Star Capuano back with Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Roughly a decade after he helped the Brewers navigate one rebuilding period, Chris Capuano will bid to join another.

Capuano was among two left-handers, with Cesar Jimenez, who signed Minor League contracts on Monday that included an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. At 37, and nearly a dozen years removed from his Brewers debut, Capuano is eyeing a spot in Milwaukee's starting rotation.

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"That's my target," he said between chats with Brewers general manager David Stearns, manager Craig Counsell and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "I've been doing a lot of training this offseason with some weighted ball stuff, working on my arm strength. Hopefully, it will pay off."

Both Jimenez and Capuano have pitched for the Brewers before, though Capuano's tenure goes back much further. He was among the players acquired from the D-backs (Counsell was one of the others) in a December 2003 blockbuster trade that sent slugger Richie Sexson to Arizona. Capuano went on to win 18 games for Milwaukee in 2005 before making the National League All-Star team in 2006.

Those were building years for the Brewers, similar to the ones that now lie ahead.

"It has a similar feel," Capuano said. "I'm just looking for an opportunity to go earn a spot, and it seems like the perfect situation for me to go do that. ... You don't get anything in baseball you don't earn, and I've never wanted anything that I didn't earn."

The Brewers' rotation projects to include at least three young pitchers -- Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann -- plus Matt Garza, who was removed from the starting mix last September but is due $25 million over the next two years. Among Capuano's competition for the remaining spot are young right-handers Zach Davies, Jorge Lopez, Ariel Pena and Tyler Wagner. Davies may have the inside track after going 3-2 with a 3.71 ERA in six Major League starts in September.

Capuano lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., a manageable drive from the Brewers' year-round complex at Maryvale Baseball Park. He plans to visit as early as next week to begin using the mounds for his throwing sessions.

In all, Capuano went 44-48 with a 4.34 ERA in five seasons with the Brewers, including a two-year gap while he recovered from the second Tommy John surgery of his career. He was good enough for the Brewers in 2010 following that comeback (3.95 ERA in 24 games, including nine starts) to earn subsequent big league stints with the Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees.

With the Dodgers in 2012, he tied for the league lead by making 33 starts, and he posted a 3.72 ERA. Last year with the Yankees, Capuano was sidelined by a quadriceps injury early in the season, then pitched to a 7.97 ERA in 22 games (four starts). Along the way, he was designated for assignment four times in the span of a month.

"It was tough," he said. "There was a couple times I didn't get even an hour into the drive and came right back."

Jimenez fans the side in order

While Capuano bids for the rotation, Jimenez, 31, was a serviceable left-handed specialist for the Brewers in 2015 after the club claimed him off waivers from the Phillies. Jimenez held left-handers to a .200 batting average over 23 innings for Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

"I'm going to go in there, compete and let my performance speak for itself," Capuano said. "I can live with whatever happens after that."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.