Colorado Rockies open season against Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

USA TODAY Sports

To preview what to expect from the Brewers in this series and in 2013, we bring in Kyle Lobner from Brew Crew Ball.

This time, it counts.

No, we're not talking about the All-Star Game, for which that phrase was coined after Major League Baseball decided to use the exhibition contest to decide home field advantage in the World Series as a result of the Midsummer Classic finishing in a tie in 2002.

We're talking about the start of the regular season -- which, for the Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers, takes place at the site of that controversial game. Monday at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisc., hopeless optimism will run through all of our veins -- at least, until Ryan Braun hits a three-run homer off of Jhoulys Chacin in the top of the first inning (that's not really gonna happen, I'm just kidding guys).

Speaking of Ryan Braun, it will be interesting to see how he responds to another set of PED allegations. Last year, the media and everyone else was like, "Ryan Braun is a PED user," and he was all, "No I'm not." This time around, those same people are all, "RYAN BRAUN IS A PED USER." Will his response be "NO I'M NOT," or will he be affected by the whole Biogenesis ordeal? We shall see.

In the meantime, there are other things going on with the Brewers heading into the 2013 season, and for that, we bring in Kyle Lobner of SB Nation's Brewers community, Brew Crew Ball. We (referred to hereafter as PR) exchanged questions with Lobner (referred to hereafter as BCB) as the Rox and Brewers prepare for battle. Enjoy.

*****

PR: I'll just start with the elephant in the room -- Ryan Braun. Is there any concern with the monsoon of crap surrounding him? Sure, he had a tremendous year in 2012 under similar circumstances, but the trouble seems to have escalated since then.

BCB: I think there's probably always going to be a dark cloud over Braun, especially since various reports have listed him as MLB's "Public Enemy No. 1" and suggested that there's some kind of vendetta at play. I wouldn't be shocked to see him get suspended, and for as long as he hasn't been suspended I think some people will always be waiting for it to happen.

The bottom line, though, is that we honestly don't know a lot of things about what Braun has or hasn't done and may never know the full story. If MLB can prove beyond reasonable doubt that Braun is guilty of something that violates the drug policy, then they should suspend him for said violation. As a Brewer fan and a fan of baseball, though, what I want is for MLB to be absolutely sure they're right before they further tarnish the reputation of one of the game's star players. Unless there's something in the Biogenesis records that none of us have seen, I doubt they can actually prove Braun's guilt from the handwritten scribblings of Tony Bosch.

PR: Marco Estrada strikes out a ton of people and has improved upon his walk rate over the past two seasons. Is he primed for a true breakout year?

BCB: It's certainly possible. It's been fascinating to watch Estrada develop from a guy who wasn't even invited to major league camp in 2011 to a pitcher that now projects to be one of the best on this team. Estrada is certainly vulnerable to the long ball, but he throws strikes and his stuff is very good. He was one of baseball's best-kept secrets a year ago.

With that said, Estrada's 138.1 innings a year ago were easily a career high, so he still needs to prove he can do what he did in 2012 over a full major league season. He's looked pretty good this spring, but he's still a guy with a lot to prove.

PR: John Axford struggled last season, with control issues seemingly being the biggest reason. Are you concerned about his ability to bounce back?

BCB: Given the shelf life of major league closers, anytime you see one start to struggle I think you have to worry that their effective days may be over. Axford's walk and home run rates ballooned a year ago and earned him a temporary demotion out of the closer role despite the fact that the Brewers really didn't have any credible options behind him.

The Brewers revamped their bullpen over the winter but didn't really add any solid options to close, so for better or worse Axford appears to be tied to the ninth inning again in 2013. Despite his recent struggles Axford still has 105 saves since Opening Day 2010, so we'll just have to wait and see what the season brings.

PR: Did Carlos Gomez really hit 19 home runs last year? That seems like an error. In all seriousness, how real is his power?

BCB: In 2012, Gomez really showed for the first time an extended glimpse of what he could be if he puts it all together. He set new career highs with 19 home runs and 37 stolen bases (in just 43 attempts), posted an OPS over .700 for the first time (at .768) and continued to play spectacular defense. The Brewers recently signed him to a new contract and he seems likely to play nearly every day in center field, which wasn't the case on Opening Day in each of the last three seasons.

Gomez will always be limited by his plate discipline (his .305 OBP a year ago was his career-high), so it's probably not fair to expect his offense to continue to improve the way it has. He does have tremendous power when he makes contact, though, and when you combine that with his defensive abilities he becomes a remarkably valuable player to have in the lineup every day. He's still also only 27.

PR: What's the general consensus on Ron Roenicke? Is he the right man for the job?

BCB: Much like most managers, there are things Roenicke does well and moments where a large portion of the fanbase wishes they could fire him mid-game.

Let's start with the positive: Roenicke took over for Ken Macha, who was widely accused of having lost the interest of the Brewer clubhouse, and has done a great job of transitioning from that mess into a pretty cohesive team. Winning certainly helps everyone like each other, of course, but Roenicke seems to be pretty well liked by his players and doesn't seem to get too fired up (like Ned Yost) or comatose (like Ken Macha) in tough situations.

Unfortunately, Roenicke's best attributes off the field are frequently overshadowed by in-game deficiencies. His management of his bench and bullpen have been sources of much criticism. He'll stick with and defend non-productive players, going so far as to do things like starting Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop over 150 times in a season or penciling an aging Mark Kotsay into the lineup in center field in a playoff game. He also LOVES to burn outs with sac bunts and refuses to issue intentional walks, even in situations that scream for them.

Measuring Roenicke's strengths against his weaknesses probably leaves him somewhere in the middle of big league managers. The Brewers could certainly do worse. He's probably the best of the last five guys the Brewers have hired, although Ken Macha, Ned Yost, Jerry Royster and Davey Lopes set a pretty low bar there.

*****

Probable pitchers*

Game 1: Monday, April 1 at 12:10 p.m. MT on ROOT Sports

Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 4.43 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (16-9, 3.66 ERA)

Game 2: Tuesday, April 2 at 6:10 p.m. MT on ROOT Sports

Jorge De La Rosa (0-2, 9.28) vs. Marco Estrada (5-7, 3.64)

Game 3: Wednesday, April 3 at 6:10 p.m. MT on ROOT Sports

Juan Nicasio (2-3, 5.28) vs. Wily Peralta (2-1, 2.48)

* - 2012 stats

Brewers' projected starting lineup*

Name Pos AVG OBP SLG HR RBI wRC+
Norichika Aoki RF .288 .355 .433 10 50 115
Rickie Weeks 2B .230 .328 .400 21 63 100
Ryan Braun LF .319 .391 .595 41 112 162
Aramis Ramirez 3B .300 .360 .540 27 105 142
Jonathan Lucroy C .320 .368 .513 12 58 138
Alex Gonzalez 1B .259 .326 .457 4 15 113
Carlos Gomez CF .260 .305 .463 19 51 105
Jean Segura SS .264 .321 .331 0 14 74

* - 2012 stats


Milwaukee Brewers Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chris Narveson shoulder 03/30/2013

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Corey Hart knee 03/22/2013
Taylor Green hip 03/22/2013
Mark Rogers shoulder 03/25/2013
Jeff Bianchi groin 03/22/2013

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Mat Gamel knee 03/20/2013

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