Brewers tab Gallardo to start Game 1
Sabathia to get Game 2 nod; Sheets' NLDS status unknown
MILWAUKEE -- Less than five months ago, Yovani Gallardo was sprawled out in foul territory near first base at Wrigley Field, clutching his right knee. A day later, the Brewers learned the extent of the injury -- a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- and two weeks after that, Gallardo was under a surgeon's knife.On Wednesday, the 22-year-old will be on the mound at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia as one of the unlikeliest Game 1 pitchers in postseason baseball history.
Brewers' NLDS roster
|Tony Gwynn Jr.||Outfielder||L||R|
Somehow, Gallardo stayed in the game, finished the fifth inning and then surrendered two runs in the sixth before exiting. A manual test after the game showed there was likely serious damage to his knee, and an MRI scan revealed the torn ACL the following morning.Melvin's reaction to the news told the story. "Pretty devastating," he said May 2. "Pretty tough." The Brewers immediately began to downplay Gallardo's chances of returning before the end of 2008. Privately, though, a rehabilitation plan was put into place with a target to get Gallardo healthy by mid-September for a possible late-season or postseason return in some capacity.
Then, disaster. Gallardo was working in the fifth inning on May 1 at Wrigley Field and trailed the Cubs, 1-0. He rushed to cover first base when Chicago outfielder Reed Johnson hit a slow roller to first baseman Prince Fielder. When Fielder dove at Johnson, Gallardo tried to hurdle the runner but instead tangled with him.
Even as Gallardo began throwing simulated games, Brewers officials carefully guarded information about his progress. When they did mention the possibility of a return, it was most likely to be in relief. Even Gallardo, after being activated from the disabled list on Sept. 23, said he expected to pitch out of the bullpen.Instead, he started against the Pirates on Sept. 25. Gallardo threw 67 pitches in four innings and allowed one run on three hits including a Steve Pearce solo home run. In his only at-bat, Gallardo never took the bat off his shoulder, a sign that the Brewers did not want him on the basepaths with a surgically repaired knee. "It's a credit to the whole training staff that I was able to get to that point," Gallardo said Sunday. "I was hoping for it all along, but it was really good to actually get out there and pitch. I'm ready if they need me [in Philadelphia]." In Gallardo, Sveum is picking raw talent over experience. He could have used postseason stalwart Jeff Suppan (5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in nine career postseason starts) on regular rest or Dave Bush on three days' rest. Gallardo beat the Phillies in his only career start against them. He was charged with one earned run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings on Aug. 3, 2007, at Miller Park. That outing lowered Gallardo's ERA to 2.55, though it ballooned to 4.20 five days later when he was hammered for 11 runs and 12 hits in 2 2/3 innings at Colorado.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.