MILWAUKEE (AP) — Madison Bumgarner has a marquee pitching matchup coming up this week against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
First, the San Francisco Giants left-hander has to get through his opening-day assignment Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers
"We're not getting too far ahead of ourselves. Milwaukee's certainly not going to be a pushover," Bumgarner said.
Outfielder Ryan Braun heads into the opener having hit home runs in his last three spring training games. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy looks like he's over the injury woes that maligned him last season after hitting .360 during spring training.
But the Brewers are rebuilding and flush with less experienced players. The Giants are looking for another championship.
They won World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14, so expectations are high for another run in an even-numbered year.
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The Brewers like where their organization is headed as they embark on their first full season of renovation. Spring training allowed team brass to get closer glimpses of top prospects like shortstop Orlando Arcia and outfielder Brett Phillips.
The immediate future is less rosy at the big league level. The Brewers seem highly unlikely to finish above fourth with the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates each aiming for the NL Central crown.
There are veteran placeholders around the infield outside of second baseman Scooter Gennett. Braun and, especially, Lucroy could be attractive in-season trade candidates to contending teams.
For Braun, Monday marks his return to left field after two seasons in right. Young slugger Domingo Santana, who was acquired in the deal that sent Carlos Gomez to Houston, is taking over Braun's old position.
"Knock on wood the biggest key is staying healthy. As long as I stay healthy I think I have a chance to have a pretty good year," said Braun, who sat out a week during the spring to rest his back. Braun's offseason scheduled was pushed back a couple weeks because of offseason back surgery.
Wily Peralta, who will be making his first career opening-day start on Monday, is another holdover who could be shopped at midseason.
Yet with all the uncertainty, the Brewers have forged a positive mindset headed into the beginning of another new season. General manager David Stearns likes the competitiveness that he's seen on the roster.
And just on the horizon, perhaps as soon as in a couple months, the Brewers could start getting infused with another wave of younger players.
"It's a fun time as an organization," Stearns said. "We all get to build something together."