There were no 20-game winners among the Milwaukee Brewers' five starting pitchers last season and no serious Cy Young candidates. The rotation was described as good, not great; efficient and solid, not flashy. But all five starters finished the season, which ended in the National League Championship Series, with winning records. Optimists, particularly those who lived through decades of horrible pitching in Milwaukee, will point to the fact that all five are back as a good reason for hope in 2012.
Another encouraging sign is that Zach Greinke has stayed away from the basketball court, where he injured himself a year ago, postponing his Milwaukee debut by a month. But he quietly became the team's best pitcher, and the Brewers were 12-3 in his final 15 starts of 2011. In Cactus League play, Greinke has led the Brewers starting staff in all categories. He's a free agent after this season and might be looking to ink a long-term, high-dollar deal like San Francisco's Matt Cain did this week.
Yovani Gallardo, who starts the opener at Miller Park on Friday against St. Louis, has been competent if uneven in spring training, as have Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson. But the fortunes of the rotation, not to mention the entire team, might rest on Shaun Marcum's ability to rebound from a spectacular meltdown in the playoffs last October, when he was unable to get through the fifth inning in three appearances.
In Arizona, Marcum has spent much of his time nursing a sore shoulder, pitching in just one game with the big-league club. He's scheduled to make his season debut in Chicago on Monday, where he'll reportedly be held to around 90 pitches. If Marcum can't be effective in the first couple months, expect the Brewers to call up top prospect Wily Peralta or Mike Fiers, the Brewers' 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, from Nashville.