Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers – #38 Chris Narveson

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Good day to you and yours. Today is Friday, February 21st and we, together, are 38 days away from Opening Day at Miller Park.

A big step happens today for the Brewers as they prepare for that Opening Day matchup against the Colorado Rockies… the annual intrasquad game.

Unfortunately, today’s profile subject isn’t scheduled to start for either squad. That’d be too perfect and convenient.

ChrisNarveson2

Perfect and convenient aren’t the style of…

Chris Narveson.

Well, to be fair, the perfection has been there for Christopher Gregg Narveson in his baseball life. As I pointed out last year, he didn’t lose a start in final two years of high school ball. But since becoming a professional, Narveson has experienced some ups and downs following his selection by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

Narveson had Tommy John surgery back in 2001, was traded twice, allowed to become a minor league free agent, pitched in the Mexican Pacific League, and finally signed as a free agent with the Brewers in before the 2008 season. Making it back to the big leagues in 2009 (after a brief debut in 2006) was quite an accomplishment given his route.

After two basically full seasons on the mound in 2010 and 2011, Narveson faced another down when following an outing on April 15th he landed on the disabled list pitching again. Narveson said at the time he was having trouble getting loose on game day and it was ultimately revealed that it was because of a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.

Shoulder injuries for pitchers can be tricky. They are hard to overcome and unpredictable. The good news in Narveson’s case is that it happened early enough last year that by all reports and accounts so far this spring — including his own — he is throwing normally.

Narveson told members of the media at Maryvale Baseball Park that “It feels like (I’ve) got a new arm.” As early as last September, he said that throwing off the mound for the first time since the surgery “felt great. It’s a long time coming, that you come to the field with a smile on your face, ready to get back after it.”

This will be a big season for Narveson so far as his career with Milwaukee is concerned. There is a decent amount of pitching that’s beginning to reach the upper levels of the organization. Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, Tyler Thornburg, and Mike Fiers all started games with the Brewers last year. Hiram Burgos rocketed through the minors last season pitching his way from High-A to Triple-A. So, for the 31-year-old Narveson, the time is now to prove not only health but to demonstrate effectiveness on the mound this year. Working in Narveson’s favor is his handedness — none of the aforementioned pitchers throw left-handed — and his consistency when healthy.

Bottom line: Despite being capable of twirling a gem when he toes the rubber, no one is expecting the Colorado native to perform like an ace every time he pitches. Pitching every fifth day is plenty important for Narveson though as the tenets of a back-half starting pitcher are availability, reliability, and steadiness. Keeping him healthy won’t just be on Narveson though. The training staff will have to work closely with him, especially during the dog days of summer, to ensure that he isn’t throwing too much and is getting adequate rest. After all, Narveson only threw 158 pitches in regular season Major League games in 2012.

With all that said,  the question is: Will Chris Narveson be in the rotation when camp breaks?

Since Narveson appears healthy, what the team will need to see out of him this Spring is control and command. Velocity may be down and he may have to work through a longer dead-arm period than he normally would, depending on how his shoulder responds to the increased workload. The velocity will need to be there by the end of camp for sure, but command and control are traditionally the biggest worries when a pitcher is coming back from a major shoulder injury. And make no mistake, a torn rotator cuff is a major injury.

I’m on record in more than one medium that I think Narveson breaks camp in the rotation.  I think having a southpaw in the rotation is a benefit. I think Narveson hasn’t performed all that well coming out of the bullpen in his time with Milwaukee, though admittedly that’s mostly based on 2010 memories as he only relieved twice in 2011.

Still, 2013 will go a long way in determining the future for Narveson both in role and, to a lesser degree, in employer. Quality pitching depth is important and while I definitely don’t worry for Narveson if he’s healthy all year, it’s something to keep an eye on.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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