USA TODAY Sports
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Cactus League play.
And finally, after months of waiting, baseball is back.
The 2013 Cactus League season opens today and the first Brewer to take the mound will be 27-year-old righty Mike Fiers (3.74 ERA, 3.09 FIP in 2012), who has a lot to prove after his hot start in 2012 led to an ugly fade late in the year. Fiers posted a 1.80 ERA in his first 13 appearances one year ago, but a 6.99 mark in his final ten.
Despite his late struggles, though, Fiers is remarkably good at getting strikeouts for a guy whose fastball tops out below 90. Fiers struck out 55 batters while walking just 20 in his final 47.2 innings a year ago, although he did also allow nine home runs over that stretch. Among Brewers who pitched at least 100 innings in 2012, only Marco Estrada (1.9 per nine) and and Zack Greinke (2.0) had better walk rates than Fiers' 2.5/9.
Fiers will likely pitch two innings or so today in his first outing of the spring.
He'll face 29-year-old righty Jesse Chavez (9.85 ERA, 6.05 FIP in 2012), who has made just two major league starts in his career. Chavez appeared in just 13 major league games a year ago as a member of the Blue Jays and A's, and one of them was a disaster start against the Brewers on June 19. He did start 18 of his 21 appearances in AAA last season, though, where he posted a 3.77 ERA between Las Vegas and Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League.
Brewer fans may remember Chavez from his time as a reliever with the Pirates in 2008-09. He throws a fastball in the mid-'90s, a cutter and a curve plus the occasional changeup. According to FanGraphs, none of his pitches have been above average in the majors.
Today's first lineup of the spring is as follows:
As of this writing I haven't seen any lists of pitchers scheduled to work today. Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada worked yesterday in the intrasquad game and Mark Rogers is scheduled to pitch tomorrow, but aside from that almost anyone could be available.
Enjoy the game!