Monday, April 6, 2015

All eyes on healthy sluggers for Opening Day

The Brewers and Rockies are counting on the healthy returns of star players to translate into team success in 2015.
When Milwaukee hosts Colorado on Opening Day at Miller Park, the Brewers' lineup will feature a healthy Ryan Braun for the first time in nearly two years. The Rockies, meanwhile, will look for a boost from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
Braun appears to be past a lingering right thumb injury that sapped his power and limited his swing in 2014. He's been swinging a hot bat to conclude Spring Training, and he seems poised for a return to form in '15.
"I've always said that as long as I'm healthy, I feel like success is inevitable," Braun said. "Hopefully I'm about to continue to stay healthy, but I feel good. I'm able to do some things I haven't been able to do for a long time."
With Braun's bat in the middle of the lineup, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke believes his club should be more consistent this year. Milwaukee got off to a fast start in 2014, but it faded down the stretch and missed the postseason after spending 150 days in first place in the National League Central.
"I think the offense, with the at-bats I'm seeing right now, will be more consistent," Roenicke said. "There's no reason for us to have that bad of a month and a half. And the pitching should be consistent. We have good enough pitchers in the [starting] five that we should be consistent. The bullpen we like. So be consistent, then you have your hot streaks and at the end there should be a good outcome."
The Rockies should have plenty of offense this year, in part because Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are also healthy.
Tulowitzki underwent surgery on his left hip in the offseason. Gonzalez is feeling strong coming out of camp after playing in only 180 games combined the past two seasons because of a myriad of injuries to his right middle finger, left index finger and right knee.
Pitching will be the key for the Rockies this year, as they look to finish above .500 for the first time since 2010. The club brought in veteran Kyle Kendrick via free agency to help the rotation, and the newcomer will start on Opening Day.
"I'm looking forward to starting the season with these guys," Kendrick said. "I feel we can be pretty competitive. We're going to score a lot of runs, play good defense and win a lot of games. I feel pretty confident about it."
Kendrick will be opposed by another Kyle: Kyle Lohse, who will make his first Opening Day start with the Brewers.
Lohse is entering the final season of a three-year deal with the Brewers. He's gone 24-19 with a 3.45 ERA in his first two seasons with Milwaukee.

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