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CHC@MIL: Gallardo holds the Cubs to one unearned run

The Brewers and Rockies both went into last season expecting to make a pitch for division titles.

Their hopes were disarmed early.

Expectations for both teams were built around their rotations.

The rotations for both teams unraveled early.

Both teams are looking for a reversal of fortunes in 2013.

And it all starts on Monday. The Brewers host the Rockies on Opening Day at Miller Park at 1:10 p.m. CT.

With 162 games to play, there is no way to proclaim that Opening Day is a must-win, but for two teams looking to regain confidence in their rotations, the efforts of Monday's starting pitchers -- Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers and Jhoulys Chacin for the Rockies -- can provide a step in that direction.

"We are not in a position of rebuilding," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "We are in a position where we want to win. In [2011] the rotation was certainly why we won [the National League Central]. We only used six starters."

Not last year, when the Brewers were 83-79. They finished 14 games behind NL Central champion Cincinnati, and five back of St. Louis in the battle for the second NL Wild Card spot. The Brewers, however, weren't really a factor in the second half of the season. They were as many as 18 1/2 games out in August.

The Rockies, meanwhile, never made good on the expectations that they could contend in the NL West.

The only month the Rockies even had a winning record was August, when they were 16-13. But they went from 18 games out of first place in the NL West at the end of July to 20 games out at the end of August. They finished 30 games behind NL West champion San Francisco, 12 back of fourth-place San Diego.

Both teams downplay the idea that they were the only two teams in the big leagues last year -- and only the fifth and sixth teams in big league history -- to go a full season without having a pitcher throw a complete game.

What they cannot deny, however, is the impact the struggles of their rotations had on the season. The Rockies ranked last in the Major Leagues in innings pitched by the starting staff (765) and ERA (5.81). The Brewers' rotation was 11th in the NL in innings pitched (941 1/3) and ninth in ERA (3.99).

Gallardo was the one consistent in the Brewers' rotation, a big part of why he was named the team's Opening Day starter for the fourth consecutive season. Not only did he make all 33 of his scheduled starts last year, but he was 16-9 with a 3.66 ERA and the Brewers won 22 of his starts.

Roenicke is counting on the veteran leadership of Gallardo and newly acquired right-hander Kyle Loshe to stabilize an otherwise inexperienced rotation.

"It was pretty easy for me as a manager two years ago," Roenicke said. "Our starters went deep. The bullpen was set up to pitch when we wanted it to pitch. Last year was more of a test."

No team was more tested by its rotation last year than the Rockies. Jeff Francis led the Rockies in starts (24) and innings pitched (113), even though he didn't even join the team until June 9.

Chacin was a part of the season-opening rotation, but he had complained since late in the 2011 season about soreness in the upper part of his right arm. It wasn't until after the first month of last season that a specialist finally discovered a nerve disorder in Chacin's right chest area that was causing the aches in his biceps. He did return in August, providing optimism for 2013 when he went 3-2 with a 2.84 in nine starts.

Now he draws his first Opening Day assignment, hoping to set the tone early for a reversal from 2012.

"I believe the talent is there, I really do," said pitching coach Jim Wright of the rotation. "It's just a matter of putting it all together."

It starts with Chacin on Opening Day.

Rockies: 2013 could be it for Helton
Todd Helton has made no formal announcement, but this is expected to be his final season. Helton will be making his 16th consecutive Opening Day start for the Rockies. The only other player to start an Opening Day at first base for the Rockies was Andres Galarraga, who started the first five Opening Days in franchise history. Helton goes into the season the Rockies' all-time leader in games played (2,123), at-bats (7,565), runs scored (1,360), hits (2,420), doubles (570), total bases (4,124), home runs (354), RBIs (1,345) and walks (1,295).

Brewers: Crew has roster stability
The Brewers have only three potential free agents after this season, and only one, first baseman/right fielder Cory Hart, is a regular. Hart will open the season on the disabled list, recovering from knee surgery. The other two are left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez and utility infielder Alex Gonzalez. They have key players under contract through at least 2015, including Lohse, signed through 2015; Aramis Ramirez, Rickie Weeks and Gallardo, each of whom has a contract with an option for 2015; Carlos Gomez, signed through 2016; catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who has an option for 2017, and left fielder Ryan Braun, whose contract runs through 2020 with an option for 2021. Among players on one-year contracts, John Axford won't be eligible for free agency until after 2016, Chris Narveson until after 2015, and Marco Estrada until after 2014.

Worth noting
• Troy Tulowitzki and Braun have played against each other since college, when Braun attended the University of Miami and Tulowitzki attended Long Beach State. They were both first-round picks in 2005, Braun going to Milwaukee with the fifth selection and Tulowitzki to Colorado two selections later. And Braun edged Tulowitzki by only two points for the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

• This is the second time the Rockies have opened a season at Miller Park. The Rockies beat the Brewers, 5-3, in 2010. The Rockies are 11-9 all-time on Opening Day, 6-6 when they open on the road. The Brewers are 23-20 with one tie on Opening Day, including 2-2 at Miller Park.

• The Brewers have lost the season opener the last four years -- 10-6 at San Francisco in 2009, 5-3 to the Rockies in '10, 7-6 at Cincinnati in '11, and 11-5 to St. Louis at Miller Park last year.

 

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