GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A flurry of formal moves and informal advisements left the Brewers' Opening Day roster nearly set Sunday, eight days before Milwaukee's Opening Day game against the Braves.
After Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay were informed Sunday morning they would make the team, Milwaukee had only two camp battles still brewing: Jeff Bianchi or Elian Herrera for the final bench spot, and four relievers (Zach Duke, Tyler Thornburg, Wei-Chung Wang and Rob Wooten) vying for three openings in the bullpen.
The Bianchi-Herrera decision is important because the pick will be the only backup infielder who can play shortstop. Bianchi can play anywhere on the infield proficiently and can man left field in a pinch, is out of options, and has had a big spring. Herrera is a switch-hitter who can play anywhere on the infield and is more versatile than Bianchi in the outfield, but has one Minor League option remaining.
The bullpen decision may have already been made, though manager Ron Roenicke was not ready to make it public Sunday, when Thornburg, Duke and Wooten finished the Brewers' win over the Reds.
If the Brewers send Thornburg to Triple-A Nashville to be a starter, and opt to make a long-term investment in Wang, a Rule 5 pick from the Pirates who must make the team or be offered back to Pittsburgh, they would open the season with three left-handed relievers in a seven-man bullpen. Roenicke does not view that as a problem.
"If we kept all three lefties, [only] one would be a specialist," he said, referring to Duke.
The Brewers must make a decision on Duke by 11 a.m. CT on Tuesday, the deadline for teams to inform an Article XX(B) free agent -- those whose Major League contract expired last fall and signed a Minor League contract for 2014 -- whether he will make the Opening Day roster. If the player does not make the cut, the team must either release the player or pay a $100,000 bonus to send him to the Minors. A player who accepts the assignment -- which Duke indicated he would do -- gets a June 1 opt-out added to his contract.
Other areas of the team are all but set. Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta are pegged for the starting rotation, though the order behind Gallardo and Lohse has not been set in stone. Closer Jim Henderson and setup men Francisco Rodriguez, Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith account for the four bullpen spots already spoken for.
Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado will share catching duties. Reynolds and Overbay are set to platoon at first base and Scooter Gennett and Rickie Weeks at second, with Aramis Ramirez at third base and Jean Segura at short. Logan Schafer will be the only backup outfielder behind left fielder Khris Davis, center fielder Carlos Gomez and right fielder Ryan Braun.
Garza dismisses 'struggles,' cruises against Reds
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was clear in the way he pitched, and especially in the way he spoke Sunday, that Matt Garza has grown weary of the worry over his Spring Training struggles.
The biggest free-agent acquisition in Brewers' history looked the part at Goodyear Ballpark, holding the division-rival Reds to a run on four hits over six quality innings, with two walks and six strikeouts -- two more whiffs than he'd recorded in his three previous Cactus League starts while amassing a 19.06 ERA and a .543 opponents' average.
"Like I said before, I'm worried about the progression of my stuff," Garza said. "You've seen I stick to my plan pretty well. When the bell rings, I'll be ready. I've said that over and over, and for some reason, there's a cloud of doubt.
"Like I said before, when the bell rings, I will be ready. When my name is called, you'd better believe, it's go time."
A National League scout had Garza hitting 91-95 mph with his fastball and working mostly at 94 mph. The scout agreed with Garza that there has been "positive progress" in each of his spring starts.
Asked about that progress, Garza said, "I'm pretty done. I've got one more against Kansas City [in a weekend exhibition at Miller Park] and that's it."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will announce his plan for the starting rotation after the Brewers return to work after Monday's day off. Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse are already set for March 31 and April 1 against the Braves, followed by either Garza or Marco Estrada, who pitched a Minor League game Sunday while Garza worked against the Reds.
Whoever does not pitch that final game against the Braves will get extra rest before starting the Fenway Park opener on April 4, the day the Red Sox receive their world championship rings. Garza has great career numbers against Boston, but is said to prefer staying on a regular, five-day schedule.
Asked whether he needed to see an outing like Sunday's from Garza, Roenicke said, "I liked to see it. I thought it was important. I know he knows what he can do when we get into the season, but still, the next [start] we're going to cut back on him [in terms of pitch count], so I thought he needed to do this, just to get in a groove and be out there for a long time against a team he's going to play a lot against."
Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said he never had any doubts.
"Honestly, like everybody early in the spring, they're working on things, working on things, working on things," said Lucroy. "But now we're near the end, so he's trying to turn it up. It's like, 'Let's go.' This is what you see when that happens. Come on, I've faced him for four years. I knew what he had."
Garza knew, too.
"Spring Training is Spring Training, guys," Garza said. "It's to get ready for the season, not to be in season. I'm one start away from being ready for the season, and I'm ready to go. I can't wait."
• Roenicke remains unconcerned about the health of Segura, who was able to take five at-bats in a Minor League game Saturday but remained sidelined from fielding duties because of a sore throwing shoulder. The Brewers are off Monday, but hope to get Segura back in the lineup Tuesday against the Giants.