PHOENIX -- I have been asked many times in recent weeks if I think the Milwaukee Brewers will sign right-hander Kyle Lohse, and my response has been the same each time.
I will believe the Brewers are not going to sign Lohse when I hear he has signed with another club.
This is not to say the Brewers are going to sign Lohse, a free agent who remains unsigned due to the combination of contract demands and draft compensation. In fact, general manager Doug Melvin repeatedly has said he is not going to sign Lohse.
But, you have to ask this question: Which major-league team would benefit most from adding Lohse to its starting rotation?
The Brewers would have to be at or near the top of that list, something that agent Scott Boras has reminded team owner Mark Attanasio more than once. The Brewers are committing to a group of inexperienced starting pitchers for 2013 on the hope that they will repeat their showing from the second half of last season.
As I wrote in this space earlier in camp, teams such as the Brewers must develop their own starting pitching. The costs of free-agent pitchers continues to soar, making it necessary for small- and midmarket clubs to develop starters from within to make ends meet.
The commitment to inexperienced pitchers could provide long-term benefits. But what about 2013? Scouts who have watched the Brewers this spring don't think they will compete for the National League Central crown with the likes of Cincinnati and St. Louis with the pitchers they have seen in exhibition action.
Manager Ron Roenicke conceded Saturday that the starting candidates behind Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada have not been awe-inspiring this spring. Mark Rogers seems to have already removed himself from the equation by struggling with his command and velocity.
Yet, with less than two weeks remaining in camp, Roenicke said that could change.
"Anytime you look at a young staff, there are going to be concerns there," said Roenicke. "Do they know what it takes to get themselves ready for opening day or are these guys just kind of following the program that you learn over time, what to do to get them ready?
"We know when they're at their best that they can pitch in the big leagues. But how do we get them that way at the beginning? Over the years, in just watching people, it's important to get off to a good start if you're a young guy."
Roenicke said Chris Narveson appears healthy again after rotator-cuff surgery. He also hopes Mike Fiers -- who was hit hard Saturday in an outing against Cincinnati -- pitches as he did last year before running out of gas in September, and that Wily Peralta can harness the stuff that made him the organization's top pitching prospect.
"They'll have two more starts and you're hoping they'll get it locked in in the next couple of outings," said Roenicke. "I don't think because of what's happening in camp now with our personnel here has anything to do with Doug looking outside.
"I think Doug always has an open mind to try to help this team, and regardless of how we're performing in spring training, that does not change what he's doing. I'd obviously like them to be locked in. Some guys probably will be and there will be a couple of guys that might not be.
"Spring training sometimes is misleading. I don't want to go just by spring training."
Perhaps, but you have to wonder if Lohse isn't looking more attractive as opening day draws closer. He is coming off the best season of his career (16-3, 2.86 ERA in 33 starts with St. Louis) and would be a strong No. 2 starter behind Gallardo.
You understand the reservations the Brewers have about signing Lohse. He is 34 and wants at least a three-year deal, and the Brewers were burned in the past by committing to Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf with multiyear deals in their 30s.
The Brewers also would have to forfeit the 17th pick in the first round of the 2013 draft as well as the bonus money allowed for that slot. So, the investment would be considerable and not without risk.
But Attanasio likes to win, and his club returns the highest-scoring offense in the NL from a year ago. Boras has told him that it would be a shame to waste such an attack with a substandard starting rotation.
So, all things considered, I'll believe the Brewers aren't going to sign Lohse when he signs with another club.
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