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Brewers tab Suppan as fifth starter

Brewers tab Suppan as fifth starter

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers made a long-discussed, much-dissected decision on Wednesday morning and anointed veteran right-hander Jeff Suppan their fifth starter.

He has to get off the disabled list first. Suppan, who opened the season on the 15-day DL with a neck injury, is scheduled to make a rehabilitation appearance for Class A Wisconsin on Friday night. If he gets through that outing without a setback, Suppan will slide into the big league rotation to start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 14.

Suppan gets the gig over left-handed competitors Chris Narveson and Manny Parra. Brewers manager Ken Macha conceded that Narveson had the best spring of that trio, working 13 shutout innings over four Cactus League starts and one relief appearance.

But Suppan got the nod because of his Major League track record. Macha discounted the notion that Suppan's $12.5 million guaranteed salary entered into the decision.

"I don't think if he was in the bullpen ... [the salary] would matter," said Macha. "He was going to be one of the 12 pitchers."

The fact that Suppan has been a starter his whole career did figure into the decision, Macha said. So did the fact that Suppan has pitched parts of the past 15 seasons in the Major Leagues, compiling a 135-135 record and a 4.68 ERA. Parra is 21-20 in parts of three seasons with a 5.17 ERA. Narveson is 2-0 with a 3.99 ERA in 26 Major League games, just five of them starts.

Brewers officials insisted at the start of Spring Training that there would be an open competition, and Narveson certainly made his case. Before his solid spring, he won the Brewers' pitcher of the month honors for September/October 2009 by going 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA in four starts and five relief appearances.

"But then if you take a look at, really, his entire Minor League career, those aren't numbers that would support you saying, 'This guy is going to be our starter,'" Macha said. "So how big a window are you looking at? September and Spring Training?

"Before it's all said and done, all three guys may get an opportunity to get out there [as a starter]."

Macha made that final point several times.

"We could have a number of No. 5 starters over the course of the year," Macha said. "Right now, we're going in this direction. Production will be a big part of it. We're lucky to have Manny Parra and Chris Narveson in the bullpen, and if it warrants that somebody gets injured or there is non-production, we have somebody to step in."

That comment seemed to indicate that the Brewers would hold onto Narveson and Parra -- both of whom are out of Minor League options -- when Suppan is activated from the DL, and that somebody else, perhaps right-handed reliever Carlos Villanueva -- who has options -- would be the odd man out. But Macha declined to talk about the team's pending roster decision.

Suppan, meanwhile, was preparing for the 100 mile drive north to Grand Chute, Wis., home of the Brewers' Midwest League affiliate. He also made a rehab start there last season when he was working back from a rib-cage injury.

"Whether it's Triple-A, Double-A, A-ball, it's about getting out there and getting some touch and feel," Suppan said. "Sometimes those are good challenges."

He said his neck issue -- cervical disk pain -- had subsided. Suppan is anxious to end his third DL stint in as many seasons.

"It's a totally new experience," he said. "I spent so many years not being on the DL, so the last few years have been frustrating."

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

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