Crew's Suppan on board with DL stint

Crew's Suppan on board with DL stint

PHOENIX -- Brewers right-hander Jeff Suppan on Wednesday disputed the notion that his placement on the 15-day disabled list was just a convenient way for the team to solve its fifth starter quandary.

"No, absolutely not," said Suppan, whose neck injury was described by the team as cervical disk pain. "It wasn't something that I walked around talking about, but I was getting treatment every day, all spring, and I never was able to knock [the pain] out.

"It wasn't a big deal. I got here and thought I had a stiff neck, and they did some tests and thought that it would just take some time to pitch through. But at some point it really plateaued. I still felt it. So we did the MRI and it was what they thought it was -- a disk problem. So it's a situation where we can let it heal."

Suppan threw six simulated innings at Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday morning with no apparent trouble but met immediately afterward with assistant general manager Gord Ash, who explained the process of placing Suppan on the DL. It was not the first time that the DL was raised as a possibility this spring, and Suppan was on board with the move.

He will remain in Phoenix while the rest of the team breaks camp Thursday and heads north to Milwaukee for exhibition games against the Tigers. He'll travel separately on Sunday afternoon and should be at Miller Park for Monday's season opener.

"I feel it's very minor," he said. "I'm not overly concerned. This is the time, before the season starts, to get back where I need to be."

Before 2008, Suppan had been on the DL only once in his Major League career, in 1996 for a strained right elbow. Now he's found his way to the DL in three straight seasons: in 2008 for an irritated elbow, in 2009 for a torn rib-cage muscle and now in 2010 for the neck.

In five Cactus League starts, Suppan has allowed 21 hits including six home runs in 16 1/3 innings. He has a 7.71 ERA but cannot say whether the stiff neck affected him on the mound this spring.

"I don't think so," Suppan said. "It definitely affected some throwing early in spring, because I was taking it easy and they were checking me every day. There were a lot of days when I felt really normal, but then the next day it would be stiff again.

"I just want to get it right," Suppan said. "This is a situation where it's minor, but let's be sure it's better."

Assuming he does not linger on the DL, Suppan could still be a fifth starter candidate. He's eligible for reinstatement beginning April 10, and the Brewers do not intend to use a No. 5 starter until April 14 or 15 in Chicago, manager Ken Macha said. They don't absolutely need a fifth starter until April 18 in Washington.

Suppan, though, would have to edge one of the team's younger left-handers for that assignment. Manny Parra has more Major League experience than Chris Narveson, but Narveson did not allow a run in 12 Cactus League innings and looks to be the frontrunner for that assignment.