MILWAUKEE -- Catcher Jonathan Lucroy has fond memories of last April 6, his first Major League Opening Day. Eight of his teammates were set for the same experience on Monday, when the Brewers opened their 45th season as a franchise against the Rockies at Miller Park.
"Last year was my first Opening Day, because I was hurt the year before that, and it's an amazing experience," Lucroy said. "It's something you'll never forget. It's an honor to put on your uniform and go out there to the foul line for the first time."
The Brewers' Opening Day rookies were starting shortstop Jean Segura, pitchers Mike Fiers, Alfredo Figaro, Jim Henderson and Wily Peralta, catcher Martin Maldonado and outfielders Khris Davis and Logan Schafer. Last year, the Brewers had five players experience their first big league opener: Lucroy, first baseman Mat Gamel, outfielder Norichika Aoki and relievers Tim Dillard and Marco Estrada.
"I didn't know there was eight," manager Ron Roenicke said Monday morning. "I think it can be good, because if we've got a team that we think is very competitive, so if there's eight young guys here, it's telling me that those eight are pretty good. They're people we think very highly of."
Following tradition, Brewers principal owner Mark Attansio's father, Joseph, sang the national anthem. The ceremonial first pitch was delivered by James Beckum, a former Negro Leagues player who founded the Beckum-Stapleton Little League on Milwaukee's near north side in 1964 and has been a fixture in the community.
The famous racing sausages even delivered a ceremonial "first bratwurst," running a relay from the Klement's plant on Chase Ave. to Miller Park.
Roenicke gathered the team at 10 a.m. CT for its final morning meeting, a daily rite of spring that began way back on Feb. 15 when the full squad practiced for the first time. Going forward, they will only meet regularly on the first day of a road trip.
"No matter how many times you do this thing, Opening Day is a little different than all the rest," Roenicke said. "Usually it's because of all of the work you put in to get to this point."
Brewers set rotation, split up Estrada, Lohse
MILWAUKEE -- Leaving open the possibility for a last-minute change if necessary, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has set his all-right-handed-pitching rotation: Yovani Gallardo started Monday's Opening Day game, to be followed by Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta against the Rockies, then newcomer Kyle Lohse on Friday and Mike Fiers on Saturday against the D-backs.
Lohse was slotted into that mix after he threw a light bullpen session on Sunday at Miller Park.
"As far as Lohse mixing in with our other staff, [he is] a little bit similar, maybe, to Marco Estrada, so we wanted to try to split that up a little bit," Roenicke said. "I think with Peralta, who is a 'stuff' guy, between Marco and Lohse, we're comfortable with that."
The Brewers signed Lohse to a three-year deal on March 25 to augment the rotation, pushing left-hander Chris Narveson to long relief.
Roenicke plans to unleash Brewers' speed
MILWAUKEE -- Runnin' Ron Roenicke has his speediest Brewers roster yet, and the third-year manager sounded Monday morning like a man who intends to put those fleet feet in motion.
New to this year's Opening Day lineup were shortstop Jean Segura and right fielder Norichika Aoki, each of whom can run. And after entering last season in a platoon with Nyjer Morgan, center fielder Carlos Gomez, the Brewers' fastest player by far, is anticipating an everyday role.
"We should be able to do the same thing on the bases as we did last year," said Roenicke, whose club led the Majors with 158 stolen bases. "If they're getting on base, we're going to have fun. But that's the challenge: to get them on base.
"Whenever you have speed like 'Seggy' and 'Gomey,' you want them on base. Segura has had a great spring, and hopefully he's going to be on base. And Gomey, he's improving all the time, and I'm hopeful that he can have that on-base percentage climbing every year as he learns."
Gomez was treated for a stiff back in the waning days of Spring Training, but he is unaffected by that ailment now, Roenicke said.
• Assistant general manager Gord Ash said right-hander Mark Rogers would start extended spring training games on Wednesday and Monday in an effort to rediscover his lost velocity, but would eventually transition to a relief role.
"Because when he comes back here, that's probably the way he's going to be used," Ash said, "and since he's never done it before, he had better start doing it."
Long term, the Brewers still hope to use Rogers as a starting pitcher. He is on the 15-day disabled list with what the Brewers termed "shoulder instability."
• Infielder Taylor Green, who also remained in Arizona and is on the DL with a left hip labrum injury, had hoped to be playing games by now. But Ash said Green remained idle because he was still feeling pain. Another infielder, Jeff Bianchi, also sidelined by a hip injury, is even further away than Green from game action, Ash said.
• Ash also provided updates on two Minor Leaguers. Hector Gomez, pegged as the shortstop for Double-A Huntsville, suffered a rib-cage strain in his first Cactus League at-bat with the Brewers and remained in Arizona for 7-10 days to get healthy. And outfielder Victor Roache, one of Milwaukee's two first-round picks in last year's First-Year Player Draft, remains sidelined by a hamstring strain but will report soon to Class A Wisconsin.
• Major League Baseball reported that the Brewers owned the league's most diverse roster, with 14 players born outside the U.S., from an MLB-high seven different countries and territories -- Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Only three of the team's nine Opening Day starters were born in the U.S.: Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy.