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Brewers camp report: Marcum more than just 'the other guy'


PHOENIX -- The day Shaun Marcum became the other guy the Brewers traded for this winter, his cell phone was buzzing.

"I woke up that morning, and I already had 10 text messages," Marcum said.

He'd been a Brewer for two weeks. He'd been the big addition to the Brewers rotation for two weeks.

And on that Sunday morning in December, the Brewers traded for Zack Greinke. Marcum became the other guy.

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Not that he minded.

Marcum knew what trading for Greinke meant. He knew that by getting one of the best starters in baseball from the Royals, the Brewers were loudly proclaiming that they want to win this year.

He knew that being a Brewer just got better.

He also knew that instead of being the guy brought in to finally help the Milwaukee rotation live up to the strong Milwaukee lineup, he instantly became the starter that most everyone would overlook.

"Perfect for me," Marcum said. "I've always been like that. I don't care for people calling me a No. 1."

The funny thing is, Marcum won more games than Greinke last year.

And while wins aren't the only (or even the best way) to measure starting pitchers, there are those within the Brewers organization who are guessing that Marcum will win more games than Greinke this year.

That's no knock on Greinke, who should be energized by the move to a team that can contend. Instead, it's a testament to how good a pitcher some people think Marcum is.

John Gibbons is one of those people.

Fantasy Writer

Sleeper ... Chris Narveson: With a 4.99 ERA in his first full major league season, Narveson probably didn't impress many Fantasy owners. Those who do trust him in this year's drafts may get a very nice payoff. His strikeout, walk and home run rates from 2010 were similar to those of Phil Hughes and Brian Matusz, yet those pitchers posted ERAs much closer to 4.00. Narveson suffered from a 66 percent left-on-base rate, the second-lowest in the majors. Fluctuation of that rate is frequent and it can make a huge difference in a pitcher's value. Narveson doesn't have Hughes' or Matusz's upside and he won't get as many innings, but he is still someone to consider in the late rounds of mixed league drafts.

Breakout ... Jonathan LuCroy: LuCroy had established himself as an on-base threat as a minor leaguer, so the .300 on-base percentage that he compiled in his rookie season last year was a disappointment. Fantasy owners may not see LuCroy improve his .253 batting average much, but there are reasons to expect that he should reach base far more often. Not only did he boast double-digit walk rates in the minors, but he increased his rate in each successive month last season. The 24-year-old also has room to boost his modest power numbers. Last year, LuCroy was strictly an NL-only option, but this year it's safe to use him in mixed leagues that have a No. 2 catcher spot.

Bust ... Yuniesky Betancourt: Betancourt has been the target of criticism for both his offense and defense, but at least at the plate, he came alive in 2010. With a boost from a career-high 16 home runs, Betancourt finished as the 13th-ranked shortstop in Fantasy points. While that ranking gives Betancourt the appearance of being a legitimate option in standard mixed leagues, he's not. With fewer cheap homers likely to come this year and a consistent record of poor on-base skills, Betancourt is sure to disappoint any standard mixed league owner who drafts him.

-- Al Melchior
Brewers outlook | Depth Chart | 2011 Draft Prep

Gibbons managed the Blue Jays from 2004-08, which means that he managed Marcum through much of his career. As the Royals bench coach the last two years, he also knows Greinke.

He likes Greinke, but when you ask about Marcum, he really lights up.

"I think he's going to have a huge year," Gibbons said. "He had some streaks [with Toronto] where he was pitching as good as [Roy] Halladay pitched. You could send either one of them out there and feel great about your chances of winning the game.

"I'm just a big fan."

Like others who have followed Marcum's career, Gibbons raves about his changeup ("one of the best in the game"), about his toughness ("he's got guts, man") and about what a good athlete Marcum is.

In fact, Gibbons and others have said that while Marcum and Greinke don't have similar styles as pitchers, they share an aptitude for other parts of the game.

"[The Brewers] picked up the two best fielding pitchers in the game," he said. "And two of the best hitting pitchers in the game."

Add in Gallardo, also an exceptional hitter and fielder, and the Brewers built themselves a rotation top three that should be the best in the National League Central. And since scoring runs has never been the Brewers' problem -- they were fourth in the NL in runs last year, and third the year before -- the big rotation upgrade should mean a big overall upgrade.

"This could be a special year," right fielder Corey Hart said.

Hart buys into the theory that adding Marcum and Greinke could make the Brewers' offense even more potent, because the hitters will relax knowing that they don't need six or seven runs a game to win.

"We might actually score more runs, by not having to worry about it," he said.

Hart said he was excited when the Brewers made the Marcum trade in early December, but at that point he and everyone else were still wondering about Prince Fielder's future. If the Brewers added Marcum but subtracted Fielder, the buzz this spring wouldn't be the same.

Instead, they kept Fielder (for this year, anyway), and added Greinke.

The result this spring has been a lot of talk about how the Brewers could win the division. But instead of focusing on Marcum, most are looking at Greinke or Fielder (who will be a free agent at the end of the season, and is almost certainly in his last year in Milwaukee).

Marcum gets overlooked, and whether he likes it or not, that's not entirely fair.

It's true that he's never won a Cy Young Award, as Greinke did in 2009. But his career record of 37-25 and career ERA of 3.85 is all the more impressive for having pitched in the American League East, and in a ballpark geared for offense.

"He was winning in what, for me, is the toughest division to pitch in," said Ron Roenicke, the Brewers' new manager.

In fact, if you take out all those games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, Marcum's 2010 ERA slides all the way from 3.64 down to 2.74.

He'll tell you that the NL Central can be tough, too, with guys like Albert Pujols to face. But you've got to remember, Marcum will also tell you how much he loves going under the radar, being the other guy.

That day in December, when the Brewers traded for Greinke, Shaun Marcum was as happy as anyone. And his cell phone was buzzing.

"My friends were excited," he said. "I was excited. My wife was even excited, and she doesn’t usually get excited about baseball."

It's an exciting time to be a Brewer. Even as the other guy.


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