Gallardo gets nod as Opening Day starter

Gallardo gets nod as Opening Day starter

PHOENIX -- No surprise here: Yovani Gallardo will be the Brewers' Opening Day starter for the second straight season. 

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made it official on Thursday that Gallardo will pitch the team's March 31 opener in Cincinnati. The choice had been widely expected since the news earlier this week that Zack Greinke would begin the year on the disabled list with a cracked rib. 

Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf are scheduled to pitch the final two games of the season-opening series against the Reds in that order, and left-hander Chris Narveson will handle the April 4 home opener against the Braves. 

"It's very exciting for me, and it just gives me that opportunity to go out there and show what I'm capable of doing," Gallardo said.

He didn't ask Roenicke whether he was the first choice or Greinke. With Greinke sidelined, it probably did not matter.

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"I don't want to say we lost our ace and now Gallardo's going in, because Gallardo was also our ace," Roenicke said. "He was excited. He doesn't get excited like the other guys, but he had a grin on his face and he was happy about it."

Gallardo, 25, also started the team's 2010 opener, losing to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies. Gallardo worked seven innings that day and allowed three earned runs, a quality start to a season in which he'd go 14-7 with a 3.84 ERA and make his first National League All-Star team. 

"When you do a certain thing more than once, that's always going to help you out," he said. "It's huge, obviously. I think I learned something from Opening Day last year, and I'm looking forward to this year."

Until Greinke was hurt in an early-Spring Training pickup basketball game, Roenicke faced something of a dilemma with the Opening Day honor. On one hand, there was Gallardo, the incumbent and a homegrown Brewer. But on the other hand was Greinke, the team's prized offseason acquisition and the 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner. Greinke was probably the favorite for the opener even after he took a spill on the basketball court, but after making two spring starts with sore ribs, he underwent an MRI scan that revealed a hairline fracture of the seventh rib on his left side, and a bruise on his eighth rib. 

The Brewers' season-opening series is March 31-April 3, with an off-day built into the schedule in case of an Opening Day rainout. Then the Brewers return home for a seven-game homestand, beginning with four-game series against the Braves at Miller Park. 

When Greinke was still in the mix, Roenicke toyed with the idea of splitting up the two left-handers -- Wolf and Narveson. But with only four healthy starters, the schedule did it for him, at least for the first two series against the Reds and Braves. Wolf and Narveson will face the Cubs in back-to-back games April 8-9.

"They're different-type lefties, so it's not like you're throwing the same prototype out there again," Roenicke said.

The Brewers will need a fifth starter on April 5 or 6, depending on whether Gallardo comes back on regular rest for his second regular-season start, or takes an extra day. For now, that fifth man is a mystery, though the Brewers are leaning toward picking from a pool that includes prospects Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta and Amaury Rivas.

Because of off-days, the club could get through the first week of the season using a fifth starter only three times -- April 6, 16 and 26 -- if it opts to keep Gallardo on regular rest for his second start.

That decision could be based partly on how Gallardo pitches against the defending National League Central champion Reds, who will feature right-hander Edinson Volquez on Opening Day.

"It definitely is a challenge. They won the division last year, and they have a great team, which just adds that much more excitement to it," Gallardo said. "I've faced off against [Volquez] a lot, actually. It seems like every time I throw against them, he's out there."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.