Here's the Brewers' thinking: Gallardo, 23, missed all but four regular-season starts last season with a knee injury but has been the team's workhorse in 2009. He leads an otherwise disappointing Brewers staff with 175 1/3 innings and 192 strikeouts, and through Saturday was one of only four pitchers in the National League and eight in the Majors to top 3,000 pitches this season.
That figure worries Brewers officials since Gallardo, a second-round Draft pick in 2004, is to the team's pitching what Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are to the offense. Dave Lawson, Melvin's longtime statistical guru, prepared a report that outlined the potential dangers of a pitcher Gallardo's age throwing as many pitches as he has.
"We're trying to manage, as well as we can, his number of pitches, and intermingle that with the development of a young pitcher," Macha said. "To sit here and be alarmed about his number of innings, the guy who pitched against us last [night, Cain], at age 23, threw 217 innings. It's not like this is [unprecedented]. The only problem is that last year he didn't pitch at all, and there is a huge increase.
"This a valuable commodity, and we're trying to balance development and ensuring that he stays healthy."
Added Ash: "It's also the circumstances that the team finds itself in. If we were in the situation we were in last year [when the Brewers were Wild Card contenders] we would probably keep pitching him. The circumstance we're in this year, we can afford to be a little more careful."
Because the Brewers are off Thursday, they can use their other four starters on regular rest ahead of Gallardo's outing against the Cubs. The Brewers have only one more off-day after that, on Sept. 28, that could allow for another adjustment.
Macha said he wasn't sure how many more starts Gallardo would get this season.
"We'll see how that all goes," Macha said. "If he comes to us at any time and says, 'I'm fatigued,' we've got plenty of pitchers here right now to be able to fill the spot."
Gallardo still has some milestones in reach. Only four Brewers pitchers have reached 200 strikeouts, including Gallardo's Mexican countryman Teddy Higuera, the only Brewer to do it twice. Gallardo is also 24 2/3 innings shy of the 200-inning plateau.
"I don't want to be shut down. I want to finish out the year strong," Gallardo said. "We're trying to find ways to make that happen. It's somewhat of [a compromise]. I feel like everything is coming out nice and easy. You have to deal with it, I guess. It's in the best interests for me. I know they're looking out."