Notes: Capuano, Bush continue battle

Notes: Capuano, Bush continue battle

PHOENIX -- Asked for his take on left-hander Chris Capuano's performance against the Rangers on Friday, Brewers manager Ned Yost lifted his arm and pinched his nose between his fingers.

And while it's way too early to make any decisions about the starting rotation, Yost said it's getting to the time when Capuano and right-hander Dave Bush need to pick it up.

Bush surrendered five runs, only three of them earned, in three innings of work against the Rangers on Wednesday in an outing that included a four-run inning. Capuano surrendered six runs in the third inning on Friday, also against the Rangers, when six straight batters reached safely including Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, who hit a grand slam.

"Their next outings are going to be important," Yost said. "We need to see them starting to get back into what they naturally do best.

"They're both phenomenal competitors and both guys, their makeup is top-notch," Yost said. "But you still have to step on that mound and perform. You have to be a Major League pitcher, and that goes for everybody on our staff or everybody that's going to be on our staff. You have to be able to make a pitch and throw a strike when you need it."

He added: "It's too early in Spring Training to panic and go crazy over that stuff. ... I expect that, somewhere down the road, the command will sharpen up. If it doesn't, then we have to sit back and evaluate things."

Bush, Capuano and Claudio Vargas are the most experienced (and highest-paid) pitchers vying for an opening in the Brewers' starting rotation. Young right-hander Carlos Villanueva and left-hander Manny Parra are also in the mix to follow Ben Sheets and Jeff Suppan. Another young pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, is working back from knee surgery and could be rehabbing into early April.

Bush and Capuano will both be slated to pitch about four innings and somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 pitches in their next start. Bush will come first, on Monday against the Cubs. Capuano's next turn should come Wednesday, again against the Mariners.

Working on things: Capuano has been working this spring on a slider with a wider arc, but his final pitch on Friday was a 2-and-0 fastball to Hamilton, who cranked a grand slam to cap the six-run outburst.

"I don't want to say I got tired. I hate saying I got tired," said Capuano, who is coming off surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. "The ball was just up in that last inning. The first couple of innings I felt on top of the ball and had the ball going down real good. That [third] inning, it came up three or four inches, right into the hitting zone."

He has been working on a different grip for his slider, a pitch that Yost said he "needs." But Capuano was winless last season after May 7 and knows he also needs to win a spot this spring.

"Everybody knows the situation, but no one really talks about the competition or what's going on," said Capuano, who cited Sheets, Suppan and Gallardo as locks. "The rest of us are fighting it out."

Working on things II: First baseman Prince Fielder was not in the Brewers' starting lineup for Friday's Cactus League game against the Rangers. That did not mean he had the day off.

"Prince and Rickie [Weeks] and Billy [Hall] are on a schedule," Yost said, referring to his first baseman, second baseman and third baseman. "My plan is to play them two days and then give them a day off, but their day off is extensive defensive work."

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Fielder worked with third-base coach and infield instructor Dale Sveum on Friday in a lesson that stretched into the team's batting practice. Weeks was scheduled to do so on Saturday and Hall on Sunday before the cycle begins again.

"It's a really good one-on-one session," Yost said. "I want them to focus. I don't want them to have to focus on having to play a game. ... It's hard to do anything really constructive on days that you play."

Ouch: Outfielder Matt LaPorta, Milwaukee's first-round Draft pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, fouled a pitch off his left shin Friday and left the game. He hobbled around the clubhouse afterward but was staying positive.

"It hurts pretty bad," LaPorta said. "I think it's just a bruise."

He said it: "They're part of us. They're an extension of us. The fans see the tip of the iceberg. They don't see what's underneath it, and it's them. It all starts over there." -- Yost, on Minor League camp opening this weekend

On deck: Suppan is scheduled to make his second spring start on Saturday against the Royals and John Bale. Steve Bray, Guillermo Mota, Randy Choate and David Riske are also scheduled to get work for the Brewers. Fielder should be back in the lineup at first base.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.