Roenicke: Lohse 'Major League ready'
Righty threw to college teams all spring as he waited for right big league opportunity
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After Kyle Lohse started his first game for the Brewers on Thursday in a 6-2 win over the Rockies at Salt River Fields, manager Ron Roenicke proclaimed that the right-hander is "Major League ready."
Still, Roenicke said he would wait until Friday when his team is home to play the White Sox in an exhibition game at Miller Park to formally determine where to slot the recent free-agent signee into the starting rotation.
Roenicke said if Lohse feels no ill effects or overt soreness from his only Cactus League outing of the spring, he would probably be inserted into the back end of the rotation when the Brewers play the D-backs at home next week.
"That's a good possibility," Roenicke said. "I won't go farther than that."
Roenicke's rotation for the opening series of the season against the Rockies at Miller Park is set with Yovani Gallardo slated to throw in Monday's opener followed by Marco Estrada on Tuesday and Wily Peralta on Wednesday.
Because of Lohse's situation, Roenicke said the Brewers would initially carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players on the 25-man Major League roster. Roenicke said before the game that management had told players what the likely roster would be, but he didn't want to formally announce those moves until Saturday's exhibition game against the White Sox is complete.
"We know what we want to do," he said. "I've talked to all the players, but I told them things change. Last minute things can change. It'll go down to the wire."
Lohse, who had thrown to college kids at Grand Canyon University and Scottsdale Community College this spring as his free-agent situation was resolved, pitched into the fourth inning on Thursday and was pulled with two outs after throwing 54 pitches. He allowed a run on four hits, struck out two, walked one, was credited with the win and also proclaimed that he was ready to go.
"It felt good," he said. "I was excited to get out there and get some Spring Training action. I was just trying to throw strikes and get back in the groove I'm normally in. I felt like it was a good workout. I'm just getting a feel for my pitches like I normally do. I felt like I could've kept going, but like they said, it didn't make any sense. I'll see how I feel tomorrow and then take it from there."
Lohse, at 34, waited out the entire offseason and most of Spring Training as a free agent just to get a viable offer. He was the ace of the Cardinals' staff last season at 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA, and he was on the mound for Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Giants. In a series where St. Louis had blown a 3-1 lead, Lohse struggled in the start and was knocked out early, and the Giants eventually won the NLCS and the World Series.
In 2011, Lohse was 14-8 with a 3.38 ERA in the absence of an injured Adam Wainwright as the Cards came storming back to win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season and eventually take the World Series in seven games from the Rangers.
Yet the Cardinals showed no interest in bringing Lohse back. Even when they announced prior to Spring Training that an injured Chris Carpenter wouldn't pitch this season, did they make any contact with Lohse?
"No," he said on Thursday. "[The whole experience] was odd, weird. That's the best way to explain it. As we go on I'll have a lot more to say. Right now I'd rather keep it to [what's going on] here. There are some things that are frustrating in the way things were set up in the new [Basic Agreement]. There are some things that need to be addressed, but we'll save that for another day, maybe."
In the end, Lohse said that three teams were interested, but he signed with Milwaukee for three years at $33 million with a chance to make another $1 million in bonuses. The signing gives Lohse and the Brewers some continuity and security.
Milwaukee had CC Sabathia on loan for the last few months of 2008 before he signed with the Yankees as a free agent. The Brewers also traded away Zack Greinke to the Angels last season after it appeared they wouldn't be able to sign him as free agent, either.
This spring, though the rotation did seem too young and shallow, the Monday signing of Lohse surprised even Roenicke.
"I don't want to say he was ever off the radar, but I never thought signing him would be a possibility," he said. "I didn't really think it would happen until we signed him. I knew we were talking, but I didn't know the length [of contract] Lohse needed or the money. So I was happily surprised that we got him."
Now the Brewers have two big-time starters in Gallardo and Lohse and a closer in John Axford, who has proven competent in that job. The big question for Roenicke is how the rest of the staff reacts.
"I think he does a lot for the staff," Roenicke said. "Now it puts the other starters in a position where they're more comfortable, and I'm more comfortable."
And Lohse is very comfortable. So Spring Training ends for the Brewers with good feelings all the way around.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.