Brewers by the (Jersey) Numbers: #37 – Jeff Suppan

By: Big Rygg

In my quest to post an article related to every Milwaukee Brewers player that I felt had a legitimate shot at making the 25-man roster to begin 2010, I knew this day would inevitably arrive.


Perhaps it was my subconscious that has been secretly delaying my completion of this daunting but doable task. Maybe in some parallel universe the decision as to whether or not Jeff Suppan will be pitching as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010 has already been made and I was not forced to write this article.


However, with as many articles as have now backed up in my queue, it is time to unclog the drain and allow the rest of my words to come pouring through.


Suppan was signed following his brilliant 2006 postseason as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, the one in which he basically pitched his team to the World Series. He was rewarded at the time with the NLCS MVP Award. He was rewarded later with a four-year, $42 million contract from the Brewers, complete with a club option for a fifth year that carried a $2 million buyout.


The Brewers and their fans have been waiting for their reward from Suppan ever since.


Brought in to be a “big game” pitcher, Suppan has struggled in that role. He hasn’t pitched well on Opening Day. He hasn’t pitched well in nationally televised games. He couldn’t even pitch well when given the chance to duplicate what earned him his Brewers contract in the first place and extend the club’s 2008 postseason run. (A fully rested CC Sabathia would have pitched Game 5 of that series, lest we forget.)


When it became apparent, if not blatantly obvious, that “Soup” was no longer the pitcher that he was brought in to be – or perhaps he never was? – the talk became all about how he was an innings-eater, a rotation-stabilizer, a good example for the young guys, an adjective laden excuse, a blah blah blah blah, a yadda yadda oh my god.


For those of you whom the reference to the movie BASEketball is lost on, what I’m saying is that the words that continually echoed from the manager’s office (regardless of its occupant) were empty rhetoric. The same things are being said this spring. Oh, it may sound like “the wind was tough today” or that there is “normal progression” going on, but sifting through the muck leads us to the nuggets of truth contained amidst the wasted breath.


Granted, it is one thing to not put a teammate or a charge on blast in front of the media. It’s quite another to blindly support someone on the surface when deep down you must be thinking the same thing that knowledgeable fans of the team are thinking, namely: “Why couldn’t Melvin have signed Suppan to a three-year deal or perhaps not at all?”


The easy answer to that, of course, is that Milwaukee needed to prove that it was willing to spend top dollars on free agents to show that a new regime had taken over, one that isn’t going to be afraid to pay to compete. The supplement to that argument is that the contract Suppan signed was the “going rate” at the time which is to say that had the Brewers not offered it, somebody else would have and they would have been the team that Suppan ended up playing for.


But the past is the past and the present is today; and as of today in this universe, Jeff Suppan is a signed member of the Milwaukee Brewers. Therefore, we discuss his prospects of making the 25-man roster.


In his most recent outing of the spring (yesterday, for those of you keeping track), the Brewers won the game. This would normally be a good thing for Suppan but if you take the time to look, the Brewers won the game 10-8. Therefore, they didn’t win it because of Suppan but rather in spite of him. Suppan gave up four home runs (fortunately solo shots) and two more deep fly balls to center field that would’ve been home runs in most parks except that the centerfield wall in Scottsdale is 430 feet away from home plate.




Still, it is Spring Training. Pitchers work on different things and don’t necessarily throw their entire repertoire right away. Suppan could have been trying a brand new pitch (by all accounts he wasn’t) or simply working on location (which was awful). There is also the argument that new pitching coach Rick Peterson’s tweaks are still being adopted and that with time they should help.


Suppan said that after trying the tweaks (which involve movement of the hands) that he felt he was getting more movement on his pitches, the likes of which he hadn’t seen in some time. Maybe he got away from the advice in his last outing. After all, Suppan was on record earlier this spring saying that he was going to be preparing for the season like he always has because nobody had told him that he was in a competition for a spot in the rotation. Maybe he tried Peterson’s advice once to humor him and then went back about his normal business.


If we take Doug Melvin at his word in that the competition for the rotation spots is an open one, what needs to happen for Jeff Suppan from here on out is at least average baseball.


That’s regardless of what anybody else in the competition does. Even if Dave Bush, Manny Parra and Chris Narveson go flawless the rest of spring, all Suppan has to do to justify a final attempt at squeezing some sort of significant return out of the contract he signed back a few years ago is to be at least okay. That way, the front office can save face if they announce that he’ll begin the regular season as a starting pitcher.


As for staying in the rotation the entire year? Well, that’s an article for a different day and another thousand words.


Here are a few words worth writing though if for no other reason than to put the minds of Brewer fans at ease…


Yovani Gallardo was named the starter for Opening Day at Miller Park.

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