Road doesn't get easier for Brewers

Road doesn't get easier for Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' early-season schedule doesn't get any easier when the improved Reds arrive at Miller Park on Monday for the opener of a three-game set.

Yovani Gallardo starts the opener for the Brewers, and he might prove their best starter this season. But he'll oppose budding Reds ace Edinson Volquez, who joins a list of nasty starters to face the Brewers this season that already includes Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Matt Cain of the Giants and Rich Harden, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster of the Cubs.

After the Reds series, the Brewers head out on the road to face National League East favorites in the Mets and Phillies, before finishing that trip in Houston.

"I don't like doing this, but if you step back and take a look at our April schedule and early into May, it's an extremely difficult schedule," manager Ken Macha said Sunday. "Everybody wants to get off to a good start, but on this next road trip, we're playing the Mets, who expect to win, we're playing the Phillies, who won the World Series. We've got a very tough schedule ahead.

"I'm very excited when we win, and we come out here to win every day, but we've got a tough row to hoe here."

Get used to it, general manager Doug Melvin said. Baseball's unbalanced schedule means Milwaukee will play a high percentage of its games against National League Central rivals, and Melvin considers the often-maligned division one of baseball's best.

"When people call this a weak division, that makes me laugh," Melvin said. "We had four teams win 86 games last season. I don't think the division gets nearly enough credit."

Only one other division -- the American League East -- had four teams win at least 86 games. The teams were the Rays (97 wins), Red Sox (95), Yankees (89) and Blue Jays (86).

"This is going to be a good division," Melvin said of the Central. "I think it's an underrated division. The Cardinals are going to be better now that Chris Carpenter is back. The Reds are an up-and-coming team that reminds me a little bit of where we were a year ago. The Cubs are who they are -- they're the team that people select to win the division. It's just great to be in a division that's so competitive, because it's going to be fun for us and great for our fans."

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Edinson Volquez (0-1, 8.31 ERA)
Volquez lacked command and pitch economy as he used 107 pitches in just 4 1/3 innings for a 9-7 loss to the Mets on Wednesday. He allowed five earned runs and six hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Lacking a put-away pitch hurt Volquez a couple of times. A two-out walk came before Carlos Delgado's first-inning two-run homer. There was a 32-pitch fourth after two outs when he gave up a double and two walks. In three starts vs. the Brewers last season, Volquez was 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA.

MIL: RHP Yovani Gallardo (1-0, 2.70 ERA)
Gallardo was good on the mound in his 2009 debut -- 6 2/3 innings, six hits, two runs against the Giants on Wednesday -- and even better at the plate. Gallardo turned on a Johnson pitch in the fifth inning for a two-out, two-strike, three-run home run that gave the Brewers a 4-1 lead. It was Gallardo's third career homer and it propelled him to his first win since Sept. 17, 2007. He missed most of 2008 with knee injuries, but did face the Reds, allowing one run and four hits in seven innings in his season debut. The Brewers lost that game in extra innings and went on to play extras in three of his four starts.

Tidbits
Macha said injured closer Trevor Hoffman would throw once again on flat ground Monday from 120 feet. If he passes that test, Hoffman would proceed to the first of several mound sessions on Wednesday prior to the series finale with the Reds. Hoffman will also go out on a Minor League rehabilitation stint before returning to active duty. ... The Brewers were 8-10 against the Reds last season, including 3-6 at Miller Park. Milwaukee trails the all-time series, 88-90-1, with the tie coming in Davey Lopes' managerial debut in 2000. ... First-round Draft picks have to run out grounders, too, a lesson that Brett Lawrie apparently learned over the weekend. He was pulled from the game after grounding out to the pitcher in the third inning of the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' win on Saturday and served as the first-base coach for the rest of the game. "He ran a 5.6 down to first base -- 5.6 seconds," manager Jeff Isom said, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent. "I was worried about his legs being hurt or something. So we made a change."

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• WMLW 41

On radio
• WTMJ 620

Up next
• Tuesday: Brewers (Manny Parra, 0-1, 10.38) vs. Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 1-0, 7.50), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: Brewers (Braden Looper, 0-0, 1.80) vs. Reds (Micah Owings, 0-0, -.--), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Off-day

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.