Yost indicates McClung has earned spot

Yost indicates McClung earned spot

PHOENIX -- Before stepping into another staff meeting to discuss the roster, Brewers manager Ned Yost gave the strongest indication yet that right-handed reliever Seth McClung had won a spot with the team for Opening Day.

McClung is 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in seven Spring Training games and impressed the Brewers following a midseason trade last season. He's 27 years old and out of Minor League options, and Yost said he would "absolutely" like to find a way to keep McClung.

"He fits nicely because he's a guy in the back end of the bullpen that can pitch middle [relief] and can pitch long," Yost said. "McClung, at times, struggles to command the ball, not to the point where he gets hammered, but to the point where his pitch count gets so high. That's the only negative to him.

"But he's a guy that's been a starter and can go three or four innings if something happens early in a game."

McClung, who has made 37 big league starts since 2003, all with Tampa Bay, showed that ability on March 16 against the Mariners, when he relieved Ben Sheets and scattered four hits over four scoreless innings.

His most recent outing came on Sunday against Arizona, when McClung's velocity was down in the 91-92 mph range. When he's in regular season mode, McClung's fastball tops out at 95 mph.

"He's a big, strong, durable guy," Yost said.

After the Brewers' 3-3 tie with the Dodgers, McClung said he had not been told anything about his status.

"Until someone says something, my eyes are straight ahead," he said.

Assuming McClung makes the cut, it appears the Brewers' Opening Day bullpen will consist of closer Eric Gagne and fellow right-handers McClung, Guillermo Mota, David Riske, Salomon Torres, Derrick Turnbow and left-hander Brian Shouse.

By releasing Claudio Vargas on Tuesday, the Brewers also set their starting rotation. Ben Sheets and Jeff Suppan will be followed by Dave Bush, Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra, the only left-hander.

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Yost also hinted that the Brewers had settled on their final bench spots, though he was unwilling to reveal the choices before players had been informed. Versatile Joe Dillon had the inside track on the final backup infield spot, and the race for the backup catcher was down to Eric Munson and Mike Rivera. The Brewers have stressed defense all spring, seemingly giving Rivera an edge.

The team will carry five or six extra players to Milwaukee for Friday and Saturday exhibitions against the Royals, with no promises beyond those two games.

Yost said he was not be willing to announce final roster decisions for another day or two, and while general manager Doug Melvin confirmed that all of the heavy decisions had been made, it is all tentative until rosters are due to Major League Baseball on Sunday.

"It's contingent on no injuries or trade proposals," Melvin said. "I got a call from a team today asking about something, so those things happen. I don't rush into those things."

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