PHOENIX — If he has his way, Kyle Lohse will make his first start for the Milwaukee Brewers sometime during their second series of the season next week at Miller Park.
“I’m lobbying for that fourth or fifth game in there,” Lohse said Wednesday morning. “But that’s me. I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse. That’s up to (manager) Ron (Roenicke) and those guys to decide.”
Lohse won’t pitch any of the first three games for a couple reasons.
Most important, his first game action won’t come until Thursday, when he starts against the Colorado Rockies in the Brewers’ spring training finale. Since Lohse will have only one true major-league game under his belt heading into the season, the Brewers certainly aren’t going to expose their new $33 million man to unnecessary risk.
Also, the Brewers face the Rockies again in the opening series, and it wouldn’t make any sense to give them an early look at him the week before.
So, look for the big right-hander to make his Brewers debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks either next Friday or Saturday.
“I’d very much like that,” pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. “It’s possible. We’ll see.”
In the same breath, Kranitz confirmed he and the staff will resist the urge to rush Lohse into action full-bore until he’s completely ready.
“The worst thing that we can do is overextend him,” Kranitz said. “Then you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle to try to get him back into his regular rhythm. So we have to be smart about this.”
Added Roenicke: “We really need to see what happens tomorrow, see where he is. We’ve mapped out a couple of options in talking to him about it. But we want to see where he is. It’s different pitching in these games than just throwing pitches to (Scottsdale Community College).”
Lohse got his pitch count as high as 95 in his workouts before signing with the Brewers and has experience with getting a late start in the spring. In 2008, he didn’t join the St. Louis Cardinals until mid-March and still was able to go five innings on opening day.
“I’ve been around. I know what I need,” he said. “I told them I’m going to be truthful about how my body feels. But I’ve been doing the stuff I need to do and I don’t anticipate being behind, really. I want the ball. I want to go out there and throw. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel like I could.
“They’re bringing my pitch count down even though it’s my first start.”
Lohse, who had been staying in shape in part by throwing at a couple local junior colleges, said he might go somewhere around 60 pitches against the Rockies.
He came in on the Brewers’ off-day Tuesday and threw about 40 pitches to Jonathan Lucroy with Kranitz looking on.
“Kyle threw the ball very well,” Kranitz said. “He was as advertised. A lot of strikes with four pitches. Moves the ball around, has an idea what he’s doing. Now we’ll see.”
Normally, Lucroy wouldn’t have made the trek to Maryvale on a day off — especially one so close to the start of the season. But these, of course, are special circumstances.
“I’ve faced him a lot but never caught him, so I just wanted to get a good feel for him before we get him out there in a game,” Lucroy said.
“He looked really good. He’s been doing a lot of work. He was really sharp. I don’t think he felt like he was totally on, either, and he looked pretty good. He was throwing a lot of strikes.”
Lohse’s addition leaves other pitchers such as Chris Narveson and Mike Fiers in limbo as the staff sorts out who gets the fifth spot in the rotation and what happens with the one who doesn’t.
Still, the Brewers are more than happy to shuffle some parts to add a quality pitcher like Lohse to their rotation.
“You’re talking about a top-of-the-rotation guy,” Kranitz said. “Anybody would be more than happy to have him in the rotation. It changes everything because you look at the bullpen even, you add the innings up and it’s going to help them.
“If history repeats itself, he’s going to give us innings, which is huge.”
In the meantime, Lohse will continue to prepare as if he’ll be in the rotation from the start.
“My plan is to be in that first time through,” Lohse said. “In all honesty, I’m ready. I’m going to enjoy getting out there tomorrow and facing big-league guys instead of the college kids that I’ve been facing.”
Roenicke did say his three starters for the opening Colorado series are the same for now: Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta.
“I don’t want to lock into that but right now that’s how we plan to do it,” said Roenicke. “We’ll see what happens with (Lohse’s) start (Thursday) and where we would slot him in. He certainly would be able to pitch that series if we thought that was the way to go.”
Roenicke said the discussion continues as to whether to keep 12 or 13 pitchers to open the season.
“We’ve talked about going to 13,” he said. “We haven’t made a final decision yet. We met this morning on what we think is going to happen. I just don’t want to lock in on that and then something comes up and we change our mind.”