Macha gives Gallardo Opening Day nod

Macha gives Gallardo Opening Day nod

PHOENIX -- It's finally official: Yovani Gallardo is the Brewers' choice to start on Opening Day.

The 24-year-old right-hander has been lined up all spring to pitch against the Rockies at Miller Park on April 5, but Brewers manager Ken Macha waited until Monday -- one week out -- to make the assignment official. It will be the first such honor of Gallardo's career.

"I think he's ready for it," Macha said.

As expected, left-handers Randy Wolf and Doug Davis will follow Gallardo in the season-opening series against the Rockies. The Brewers will wait until Tuesday morning to formally name Dave Bush the No. 4 starter. Bush pitched Monday in an 8-6 Spring Training loss to the Giants.

Because of off-days, the Brewers won't have to name a No. 5 starter until after Opening Day. They will probably use him during the team's April 12-15 series at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Macha said.

Gallardo had dressed and departed Maryvale Baseball Park when his manager made the long-awaited announcement. Gallardo spoke briefly with reporters before heading home but didn't want to jinx a potential Opening Day assignment.

"It would be great," Gallardo said. "I would be very excited, honored, a little bit of everything. Getting a chance to start Opening Day, that's a big deal."

He was passed over last year. Gallardo had missed most of 2008 with a major knee injury and Macha preferred to start a veteran amid the Opening Day hubbub, anyway, so he tabbed Jeff Suppan to pitch in San Francisco. The Brewers lost that game, then rebounded the next night behind Gallardo, who won the game with a three-run home run off Giants lefty Randy Johnson.

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Gallardo went on to win the team's pitcher of the year honors. He was 13-12 with a 3.73 ERA in 30 starts and became the fifth pitcher in Brewers history to top 200 strikeouts. Gallardo whiffed 204 batters before the team shut him down early to protect his young arm.

"We've got Randy Wolf now, but 'Yo' has been here and came through the system," Macha said. "Last year, I didn't feel it was his time yet. He pitched a lot of good games where we didn't give him a lot of run support, and I thought he handled that well."

The Brewers' offense was shut out in four of Gallardo's starts. There would have been a fifth, but Gallardo stroked a solo home run to beat Ian Snell and the Pirates, 1-0, on April 29.

Bush called Gallardo's Opening Day nod an honor well-deserved.

"Without a doubt," Bush said. "He showed it all last year, especially having missed the year before. We had seen glimpses of how good he was going to be, but to miss almost all of '08 and then come back last year and have the kind of year he had, he showed us what we had been hearing about. He put it all together. I love watching him pitch, and he deserves to be in that position.

"I'm happy for him," Bush added. "He's going to be a good pitcher for a long time."

Bush had been pitching well this spring until Monday, when he surrendered seven runs, six of them earned, on eight hits and two walks in six innings. He was burned early by Giants second baseman Eugenio Velez, who pounded a long fly ball just foul in the first inning before hitting a two-run home run on his next swing.

"It was two different pitches," Bush said, "and both of them were crummy."

Bush found a silver lining.

"It wasn't a very smooth six innings, but it was six innings nonetheless," Bush said. "I'll stay with my routine between starts and keep going."

Macha wants to be sure that Bush arrives in camp on Tuesday morning without any surprise stiffness before formally making him the No. 4 starter.

The No. 5 slot, meanwhile, remains a mystery. The candidates are left-handers Chris Narveson and Manny Parra and right-hander Jeff Suppan, all of whom are on schedule to pitch Tuesday. Macha said Narveson would start the afternoon Cactus League game against the Angels and Parra would follow in relief, but he said curiously little about Suppan, who is guaranteed $12.5 million in 2010 in the final year of his four-year contract.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to answer that for you [Tuesday] morning," Macha said.

Does that mean a roster move might be in order? Macha paused.

"There could be a roster move at any time, let's put it that way," Macha said. "This is the end of Spring Training, so stuff like that happens. There are moves every day."

At least Gallardo finally has his answer. He has one more Spring Training start, but now he can start preparing for Opening Day.

"Spring is a little bit shorter this year compared to last year, but it's [still] long," Gallardo said. "Towards the end, you want to get out of here and go to Milwaukee. That's what we're all looking forward to."

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