Brewers' pitchers fitting for starting spots, innings

PHOENIX (AP) With potentially seven pitchers eyeing a slot in the Milwaukee Brewers' starting rotation, innings will be at a premium this spring.

But for second-year hurlers Zach Davies and Junior Guerra, arguably the two most consistent starters last season, another chance to prove their worth awaits.

For Davies, who led Milwaukee in wins (11) and ERA (3.97), his goal a year ago was to stay healthy and try for as much time up with the big club as possible.

This spring, he has a different mindset.

''This year, I'm going to push myself, hopefully securing a spot in the rotation, but also make bigger goals numbers wise,'' said Davies, who had 135 strikeouts in 163-1/3 innings.

The 24-year-old spent the winter refining his craft, applying minor tweaks he said will give him the extra edge.

''I worked on different spots in the zone, different pitches in the zone, sequencing,'' Davies said. ''Half mental side of the game, half small mechanical tweaks that could help me out.''

Mechanical tweaks and mental preparation didn't weigh heavy on Guerra's mind this offseason. He focused more on strengthening his throwing shoulder and arm.

''I just kept working hard, preparing myself for the season,'' Guerra said through a translator in the clubhouse as pitchers and catchers reported Wednesday for their first workout.

As a 31-year-old rookie in 2016, Guerra made 20 starts for the Brewers, finishing 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 121-2/3 innings.

Keeping in mind his workload and an elbow injury that sidelined him for most of last August, Milwaukee brass asked the Venezuelan right-hander to skip winter baseball.

''I've been playing winter ball all my life, and my career. It was different at first, but I was able to get on a program and strengthen my shoulder. I was able to focus on that, which was nice,'' Guerra said.

Third-year Brewers skipper Craig Counsell said the point of Guerra taking a break this winter was to make sure he arrived at camp ''ready to go.''

''He finished the season healthy, so we didn't have any concerns there. Junior is going to prepare to be one of our starters, that's no different than any of the other guys,'' Counsell said.

UP FOR GRABS

Along with Davies and Guerra, several other established names will figure into Milwaukee's starting rotation mix.

Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and newly acquired Tommy Milone will compete for a spot.

Peralta had a solid final two months of the season in 2016, posting a 2.95 ERA with 51 strikeouts in his last 10 starts. Nelson led the Brewers in starts (32), while Garza managed to pitch over 100 innings for the ninth time in his career.

Anderson, who recently lost an arbitration hearing and was awarded the $2.45 million salary offered by the Brewers instead of the $2.85 million he sought, was 9-11 with a 4.39 ERA in 151-2/3 innings pitched in 2016.

Milone joins a young staff eager to prove themselves.

''It's never a bad thing to have a young staff. Guys that come in are young, you grow together,'' Milone said, adding when he came up with the Athletics in 2012, the young core of starters didn't put ''pressure'' on themselves. We went out and had fun. We were all the same age, so we related to each other.''

Davies agreed.

''When you have a group that's all about the same age, all about the same service time, it's easy to go up to each other, joke around each other, have fun and bounce ideas off each other,'' Davies said. ''You're helping them out, but helping yourself out at the same time.''

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