Running down the rosters: Milwaukee Brewers

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With Prince Fielder’s departure assured, the last thing the 2011 NL Central champion Brewers needed was to lose Ryan Braun for a third of the season. It’s likely to happen, though, even if his appeal is still pending. The rotation should be strong enough to keep the Brewers in the race while Braun is out, but the offense seems certain to struggle in his absence.

Rotation
Yovani Gallardo – R
Zack Greinke – R
Shaun Marcum – R
Randy Wolf – L
Chris Narveson – L

Bullpen
John Axford – R
Francisco Rodriguez – R
Jose Veras – R
Kameron Loe – R
Manny Parra – L
Marco Estrada – R
Brandon Kintzler – R

SP next in line: Estrada, Wily Peralta (R), Amaury Rivas (R)
RP next in line: Mike McLendon (R), Frankie De La Cruz (R), Zach Braddock (L), Tim Dillard (R)

The Brewers’ got 155 starts from their top five last year, and they’ll probably need something similar to happen if they’re going to win 90 games again. The seven starts that didn’t go to those guys went to Estrada, who figures to reprise his swing role after a very surprising showing last season (88 strikeouts in 92 2/3 IP). The Brewers have little in the way of depth behind them, but Peralta might prove ready after going 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA in a 2011 season spend mostly in Double-A.

The bullpen wasn’t expected to include K-Rod again, but he accepted arbitration as a free agent, leaving the Brewers with an $8 million setup man. He and Axford should give the team an excellent one-two punch at the end of the games. The rest of the pen is pretty iffy, though I do like Kintzler. If the Brewers had their way, they would have spread K-Rod’s cash around to two or three veteran relievers.

Lineup A
2B Rickie Weeks -R
CF Nyjer Morgan – L
LF Ryan Braun – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
RF Corey Hart – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan Lucroy – R
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Lineup B
RF Corey Hart – R
LF Nyjer Morgan – L
2B Rickie Weeks – R
3B Aramis Ramirez – R
1B Mat Gamel – L
C Jonathan LuCroy – R
CF Logan Schafer – L
SS Alex Gonzalez – R

Bench
C George Kottaras – L
INF Taylor Green – L
INF Cesar Izturis – S
OF Carlos Gomez – R
OF Norichika Aoki – L

Next in line: C Martin Maldonado (R), 1B Travis Ishikawa (L), INF Brooks Conrad (R), INF Eric Farris (R), INF Zelous Wheeler (R), OF Corey Patterson (L), OF Caleb Gindl (L), OF Brock Kjeldgaard (R)

So, there’s the Braun lineup and a Braun-free lineup. I’m basing the bench on the Braun-free lineup. If Braun is able to avoid his suspension, then Schafer figures to start off in Triple-A. Green would also be more likely to return to the minors if Braun can play. Otherwise, I think the Brewers will need his bat.

Schafer’s inclusion is a pure guess on my part. If Aoki impresses in spring training, then the Brewers figure to try him as a starter in Braun’s place. If not, then they’ll have to decide whether to think defense first with Gomez or try the rookie. Regardless, Gomez seems certain to play against lefties.

Gamel looks like the big key here. If he can provide a quality left-handed bat to slot behind Ramirez, it frees up manager Ron Roenicke to use Hart and Weeks at the top of the order. If Roenicke instead decides he needs a veteran presence behind Ramirez, then someone who doesn’t deserve to will hit high in the lineup. The Brewers are already treading dangerously up there, since it’s far from certain Morgan will be so good again.

Joe Kelly’s suspension reduced to 5 games on appeal

Joe Kelly suspended eight
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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly had his suspension for throwing pitches near the heads of Houston hitters reduced to five games on appeal.

Kelly was originally penalized eight games by Major League Baseball on July 29, a day after throwing a 96 mph fastball near the head of Houston’s Alex Bregman and two curveballs that brushed back Carlos Correa.

The Dodgers on Wednesday confirmed the reduced penalty.

Kelly went on the 10-day injured list retroactive to last Sunday with right shoulder inflammation. He will serve his suspension when he returns.

After striking out Corea, Kelly curled his lip into a pouting expression and exchanged words with the shortstop.

Benches cleared after Kelly’s actions during the sixth inning of Los Angeles’ 5-2 win at Houston in the teams’ first meeting since it was revealed the Astros stole signs en route to a 2017 World Series title over the Dodgers.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts served his one-game suspension the same day the penalty was handed down. Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined an undisclosed amount.

Kelly denied that he purposely threw at the Astros. He has previously been suspended in his career for throwing at a batter.

The penalties were imposed by former pitcher Chris Young, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, who issued his first ruling since taking over the job from Joe Torre.