While most teams are entering spring training with a set 5-man rotation, or at worst a battle for the 5th starters spot, the Milwaukee Brewers come into camp with a battle for every slot past Sheets and Rusch. This is not unusual for the Brewers who seem to have had a conga line of starting pitchers that dates back many seasons. So, in the next few paragraphs, I will try and break down just who exactly is gunning for those final 3 spots after Ben Sheets and Glendon Rusch.
To begin with, let's look at the guys almost sure to make the team:
Todd Ritchie: While Todd was absolutely terrible last year (6.06 era, 1.71 whip), he has been a serviceable starter in previous seasons. In fact, in 2001 Todd was pretty good, holding opposing batters to a .238 batting average and keeping his whip at a respectable 1.27. A lot of the blame for his terrible 2002 campaign falls on an injury he suffered early in the year (in April his era was 3.03!), but he should be perfectly healed by the upcoming spring training. Todd Ritchie is the perfect example of the come back candidate that Doug Melvin likes so much. All things given, Ritchie should return to roughly league average and put in close to 200 innings. At the least he will give the bullpen more rest than they had last year when Jamey Wright was sucking it up in the 3-hole
Matt Kinney: Kinney, acquired along with Javier Valentin for Gerard Oakes and Matt Yeatman was disappointing as a starter for the Twins last year. However, he was a decent prospect for them in 2000. Kinney strikes out a pretty good number of guys, unfortunately he also walks a pretty good number of guys. No one expects him to step up and be great, but if given the chance, it is possible that Kinney could post a 5.00 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP. He should be good for 150 innings or so as a starter. Kinney, like several others later to be seen, is out of options, so if he does not make the 25-man roster out of spring training, then he has to clear waivers before he can play in Indianapolis.
Though Kinney appears to be the forerunner for the forth spot, he could easily be the odd man out. Another man with a very good shot at making the team is:
Ruben Quevedo: Quevedo personified the Brewers problems last year: He came into camp out of shape, appeared to be injured most of the season, was just plain awful, helped his wife beat up Alex Sanchez, and finally had his last waiver wasted in August, just before the expansion of the rosters. Needless to say, Ruben is on thin ice with the Brewers. That said, Quevedo is a talented pitcher, and at 24 years old there is no reason to believe he won't get at least marginally better. Ruben was a very good prospect when acquired by the Brewers for Dave Weathers, and was absolutely lights out in AAA in 2001. If he can regain some of that form, he will make a serviceable Major Leaguer. Like Kinney, Quevedo is out of Options, so if he doesn't make the team, he will likely head elsewhere.
Beyond those three, the picture gets foggier as there are a bunch of guys with a shot at the starting rotation