MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Brewers will enter the post-Prince Fielder era today, when they host the Saint Louis Cardinals in their regular season opener.
Most pundits don't believe the Brewers will repeat as the National League Central Division champions, after they won 96 games a year ago. But manager Ron Roenicke says the pitching's better, and outfielder Nyjer Morgan says the team has the talent to prove the skeptics wrong. The Brewers want to improve their infield defense after signing third baseman Aramis Ramirez from the Cubs and shortstop Alex Gonzalez from Atlanta. And they hope Ramirez will provide some of the power that Fielder took with him to Detroit.
Also, the Brewers bit a bullet when National League MVP Ryan Braun escaped a 50-game suspension for testing positive for what reportedly was synthetic testosterone last fall. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo makes his third straight Opening Day start for the Brew Crew. Left-hander Jaime Garcia goes for Saint Louis. The first pitch on this Good Friday is at 3:05 p.m.
Before last fall's NL Championship Series, the Brewers and Cardinals admitted they didn't like each other very much. And the Redbirds went on to pound the Brew Crew four-games-to-two on their way to winning the World Series. Milwaukee skipper Ron Roenicke expects the intense rivalry to continue - but he says cooler heads should prevail after Cards' manager Tony La Russa retired. La Russa stirred things up for years as he criticized the Brewers, their fans, and even Miller Park itself. Roenicke said he didn't want to stir the pot by bringing them up again. And the Cardinals' new manager, Mike Matheny, is taking the high road. He started his big league catching career in Milwaukee, and he says he has an immense respect for the Brewers and the way they played last season. Today's starter for Milwaukee, Yovani Gallardo, does not expect things to be all that different. He says both teams play hard, and that won't change.
Prince Fielder went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI in his opener for Detroit. The Tigers edged Boston 3-2 in the Motor City. Fielder left Milwaukee this past winter, as he signed a nine-year $214-million contract with the Tigers. His sac fly in the eighth inning gave Detroit a 2-0 lead. But Boston tied the game in the ninth, and Austin Jackson won it for the Tigers with a walk-off single.
Remember when the Milwaukee Brewers spent $25-million on players who finished last or close to it? Well, not anymore. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the payroll is $101-million for the 25 Milwaukee players who will open their regular season at home this afternoon against the Saint Louis Cardinals. It's the first time the Brewers' payroll has ever gone into nine-digits. And it's four times what the Selig family spent in 2004, the year before they sold the team to Mark Attanasio. General manager Doug Melvin says Attanasio is committed to having a winning team - and he stretched the budget to make it happen. The Brewers could have folded after Prince Fielder bolted for Detroit. But instead, Milwaukee spent 13-million dollars more than a year ago, to bring in players with the potential to give the Brew Crew its second straight National League Central Division title. Melvin said the Brewer payroll is the sixth-highest increase in the Majors and it's quote, "the price of winning." They paid $12-million a year to get power-hitting third baseman Aramis Ramirez from the Cubs. They offered salary arbitration to Francisco Rodriguez to keep him from becoming a free agent - and he settled for eight-million. Ryan Braun will get his full eight-and-a-half million, after he avoided a 50-game suspension for his positive drug test. And the Brewers paid two-and-a-half million just to win the negotiating rights for Japanese hitting star Norichika Aoki - and they signed him for another two-and-a-half million.