The Brewers' rotation was a work in progress the entire spring, and that remained true until the final days.
The changes started when right-hander Mark Rogers fell out of the running due to repeated issues with command and velocity. Rogers eventually was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder instability and remained in Arizona when the team broke camp to continue to work on his pitches.
The big change came with a week remaining in camp when the Brewers signed right-hander Kyle Lohse to a three-year, $33 million deal. Lohse had lingered much longer than expected on the market due to the combination of the size of deal he sought as well as draft-pick compensation attached to his signing.
Lohse gave the Brewers a much more formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation in combination with ace Yovani Gallardo. He had some catching up to do after missing most of spring training, and his debut was tentatively scheduled for the second series of the season against Arizona.
Then, on the final weekend of spring training came another change. Manager Ron Roenicke announced that left-hander Chris Narveson would begin the season in the bullpen instead of the rotation. Narveson is coming off rotator-cuff surgery that limited him to two starts in 2012, and it was decided that he could use more time to build up arm strength before being thrust into a starting role.
The decision with Narveson gave the fifth starting job to right-hander Mike Fiers. He joins a rotation that includes Gallardo, Lohse, Marco Estrada and rookie Wily Peralta.
"We want to back off him a little bit," Roenicke said of Narveson. "He's OK, but he's really been pushing through this thing in spring training, through the surgery. In the long run, it's probably going to help him out to limit his innings at the start."
Narveson's last two starts in Cactus League play couldn't have been more disparate.
On March 20, he threw six innings of one-hit, shutout ball in a 0-0, 10-inning tie with the San Francisco Giants. He didn't issue a walk and struck out four.
He followed that by allowing eight hits, including a grand slam, six earned runs and five walks in a loss to the Oakland A's on Monday.
For the spring, Narveson went 1-2 with a 5.50 earned-run average in five starts (18 innings). Narveson struck out 10, walked six and had a WHIP of 1.61. Opposing batters hit .311 against him.
Narveson said he was on board with the decision.
"It's a long season," Narveson said. "I'm not reading a lot into it. It gives you a little bit of a break between here and kind of cranking things up. It's 162 games. I'd rather be strong come August and September than be strong at the beginning and all of a sudden you fade out.
"I'd much rather be strong knowing I can go every fifth day in August and September than be shut down. It's been an open discussion of how things have been going. It's a team game. We know we have to have 25 guys pulling one way. Starting off in the rotation is always nice, but at the same time you're going to need more than five starters (over the course of the season)."
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