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Brewers can afford to add top pitcher

Brewers can afford to add top pitcher

MILWAUKEE -- The guy who authorizes the paychecks says the Brewers have room in the budget to acquire an expensive, front-line starting pitcher this summer from a team looking to shed payroll.

That's assuming, of course, that general manager Doug Melvin can find a team willing to give one up.

"We have flexibility in the payroll for whatever it turns out we need," Attanasio said. "Doug has to measure that, and measure it at the right time."

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The Brewers have been on the lookout for pitching since they lost right-hander Yovani Gallardo, an ace in the making, to a knee injury that almost certainly ended his 2008 season.

His injury left the Brewers with Ben Sheets and Jeff Suppan at the front of the rotation and Dave Bush, Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra at the back end. Bush and Villanueva rebounded from recent struggles to win their starts this week and Parra pitched Wednesday night against the Dodgers with Attanasio, in town for Major League Baseball's owners' meetings, in attendance.

Will the Brewers look to make a trade?

"First of all, that's in Doug's court," Attanasio said. "We do have confidence in Dave [Bush] and the other guys. We knew going into this season that Manny Parra and Carlos Villanueva were going to be young pitchers that are works in progress, even though they started games and started well last year."

It is also a difficult point in the season to seek trades. None of the 24 teams who didn't lead their division entering play Wednesday was more than 9 1/2 games out of first place and 18 teams were within five games of first.

"Even teams that have really fallen, I don't think anyone is willing to concede the season is over," Attanasio said. "And Doug has to be careful when he makes those phone calls. He doesn't want to call guys and have them bristle as if he says, 'Oh, it looks like your season is over.'"

The Brewers have already experienced several high-priced losses in the pitching department, including starter Chris Capuano ($3.75 million salary in 2008) to an injury and reliever Derrick Turnbow ($3.2 million) to wildness. Reliever Eric Gagne, who inked a $10 million, one-year contract over the winter, has been hit-or-miss, though he reclaimed the closer's role on Tuesday night and earned his 10th save. Bush was demoted to Triple-A Nashville before the Brewers needed him to replace Gallardo.

The team also let one pitcher go, releasing starter Claudio Vargas near the end of Spring Training, believing it had plenty of better options.

"Losing two of our pitchers [Gallardo and Capuano], all of a sudden we went from having depth to having no depth. That's been disappointing," Attanasio said. "You always say, 'What if?' when you have all the pitching, but then, 'What if?' happens in the first month. All that stuff hit at once."

Attanasio said little about ongoing talks with some of the Brewers' young players regarding contract extensions. Two other franchises locked up young stars this week as Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir inked deals, and the Brewers have been talking to representatives of a number of players, including Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart.

"Doug is in the middle of that, in terms of the day-to-day, week-to-week, or maybe at this point it's the month-to-month," Attanasio said. "I don't think we're ready to say it's over."

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

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