Gallardo to start third straight Opening Day

Gallardo to start third straight Opening Day

Gallardo to start third straight Opening Day
PHOENIX -- It's becoming an annual rite for the Brewers: home-grown right-hander Yovani Gallardo will be the team's Opening Day starter.

Gallardo, 26, gets the nod for the third straight season, putting him in exclusive company in terms of Brewers history. Jim Slaton and Teddy Higuera started three openers apiece, and Ben Sheets got the nod a club-record six times, including four straight Opening Days from 2002-05.

Right-hander Zack Greinke and left-hander Randy Wolf will follow Gallardo in the Brewers' season-opening series against the Cardinals at Miller Park. Righty Shaun Marcum is on track to follow April 9 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, assuming he doesn't have any shoulder setbacks before then. Lefty Chris Narveson would be the fifth starter.

"I think you go by what happens the season before. 'Yo' opened up for us last year, had a great year and we'd like him to open up again," manager Ron Roenicke said.

"It would mean a lot," Gallardo said Tuesday, when the assignment remained unofficial. "It shows you what they think of you, especially having that opportunity to hopefully do it three years in a row. It's an exciting game. You want to start the right way. The whole atmosphere of Opening Day, it's a little bit more exciting, nervous, than regular-season games. Knowing we fell a couple games short playing against the Cardinals last year, it just adds to it a little more."

The Brewers fell to St. Louis in a six-game National League Championship Series last season. Gallardo, who was sensational in the NL Division Series against the D-backs, lost Game 3 of the NLCS to the Cardinals. He went 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals in the 2011 regular season, and is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 career starts against them.

Roenicke informed Gallardo and Greinke of the plan over the previous two days. Both have started Opening Days before -- so has Marcum -- putting Roenicke in a pleasantly tough position. He said Greinke took the news well.

"I think it's really nice having Greinke going second," Roenicke said. "He would love to start Opening Day, but he's really a good team player. He understands reasoning for doing things, and he's very compliant with what we ask him to do. It was good."

Greinke lowered his Cactus League ERA to 0.93 with seven strong innings Wednesday against the D-backs. He confirmed he was on board with the decision to go with Gallardo.

"I felt like he was our guy last year, and he's been here the longest," Greinke said. "As of right now, he's still going to be here the longest. I think it makes a lot of sense. I didn't earn anything last season to be able to take over, I don't think."

Gallardo is signed through at least 2014. Greinke is entering the final year of his contract, but remains in talks with the team about an extension.

The Brewers have lost each of Gallardo's openers, but he pitched reasonably well. He pitched through the sixth inning each time and allowed five earned runs in 13 innings of those games: a 5-3 loss to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies in 2010, and a 7-6 loss to the Reds in 2011, in which Cincinnati scored four runs in the ninth inning against closer John Axford to stun the Brewers.

Picking a pitcher for the opener is "important," Roenicke said.

"We're in a rare situation where we have two No. 1 guys," he said. "And our Nos. 3, 4, 5 aren't too bad, either."