2/26/2013 7:43 P.M. ET
Gallardo gearing up to pitch for Mexico in Classic
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The last time Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz sat in the stands for a baseball game, it was March of 2009. He was the Orioles' pitching coach and one of his guys, Jeremy Guthrie, was on the mound for Team USA in a second-round World Baseball Classic game against Venezuela.
How'd it go?
"Not good," Kranitz said.
Adam Dunn's throwing error contributed to Venezuela's six-run, six-hit second inning against Guthrie, while Kranitz squirmed in the Dolphin Stadium stands. Kranitz is hoping for better results this time around for the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo, who is on a tentative path to make his Classic debut for Mexico's team on March 8 against Team USA at Chase Field.
Kranitz will be there, but is not expecting to particularly enjoy himself.
"I'll be really happy for him and proud of him being out there pitching for his country," Kranitz said. "But it's hard not being in the dugout when that's your guy, to say the things you think he needs to get straightened out. I've been with this guy [Gallardo] for two years -- I'm sure it's like a parent sitting in the stands watching their kid. They're more nervous than the kid."
Kranitz sat in a more comfortable position Tuesday for Gallardo's Cactus League season debut against the Mariners. It was a mixed bag. Gallardo worked two scoreless innings before allowing back-to-back home runs in a three-run third, including a tape measure blast by Franklin Gutierrez that cleared the batter's eye in center field.
Gallardo has another start scheduled for Sunday before joining Mexico's team, and can understand if Kranitz and other Brewers officials feel some trepidation seeing him go.
"You can see why anyone would be nervous," Gallardo said. "It's early in camp. Yeah, you're out here in Spring Training, but numbers don't count here. You're trying to prepare for the season. Yet again, you have a tournament that's so big and competitive when you're trying to get ready for the season, and you can see why there's concerns.
"For myself, I would look at it as a positive to go out there and compete against those guys this early in camp. I think it will prepare me in the long run for Opening Day and for the rest of the season."
Kranitz was pleased to see adjustments to the Classic rules (the pitch limit for first-round games was lowered to 65 this year), and to the Spring Training schedule (the Brewers played their Cactus League debut on Feb. 23, about a week earlier than usual). Together, those adjustments mean Gallardo will have pitched in an intrasquad game and two Spring Training games by the time he departs, and will be built-up up to about 60 pitches. Compare that to 2006, when Kranitz was the Marlins pitching coach and another of his guys, lefty Dontrelle Willis, had only one Spring Training start before pitching for Team USA in the inaugural Classic.
Still, Kranitz will keep close tabs on Gallardo, who is building toward his fourth consecutive Opening Day start. Kranitz will also have an eye on two other Brewers starters pitching in the Classic -- Gallardo's countryman Marco Estrada and Puerto Rico's Hiram Burgos.
If Gallardo does pitch March 8 against the U.S. -- he said nothing has been settled yet -- Estrada will probably pitch March 9 against the Canadians at Chase Field. Burgos has been told to be ready to pitch Puerto Rico's Classic opener on March 8 against Spain in San Juan, Puerto Rico -- either in relief of Javier Vazquez or as the starter.
"The thing that comes into play for me is that they have to ramp it up so fast, because this is big time," Kranitz said. "They're pitching for the pride of their countries, and they're amped up and they're in virgin territory as far as that goes. That's the one tough thing about [the Classic] -- there's no perfect time for it."
But what can Kranitz and manager Ron Roenicke do? Tell Gallardo to take it easy?
That's not happening.
"It's a baseball game, and I don't want them going any different than they would go any other time," Roenicke said. "You can't throttle back. You just play."
San Diego bench coach Rick Renteria is managing Mexico's team, so Roenicke and Renteria touched base Monday before the Brewers-Padres game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Renteria has been in communication with the Brewers for some time to ensure Gallardo's and Estrada's schedules line up with the Classic.
Roenicke is less concerned about some key Brewers relievers -- closer John Axford and setup man Jim Henderson -- pitching for Team Canada. Both Axford and Henderson will probably be limited to one-inning stints, so it will be more like Spring Training business as usual.
"And I know these teams are taking care of these players -- it's not that," Roenicke said. "It's just that I've got players who are going to be gone for a while."
Said Kranitz: "Hopefully they don't go out and try to do more than they're capable of doing at this time of the year."