Gallardo to return to Brewers as starter on Thursday

MILWAUKEE -- With the Brewers' rotation in tatters and Milwaukee trying desperately to catch the Mets in the wild-card race, interim manager Dale Sveum said Yovani Gallardo will start Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Gallardo, who hasn't pitched since May 1, was activated on Tuesday and was expected to help Milwaukee with limited innings out of the bullpen. But the Brewers are running out of time to make up a game on New York, with just five left entering Wednesday night.

"I'm sure he's not going to go much more than 70 pitches or something like that," Sveum said Wednesday. "He's a guy that can give you some quick innings and if we put him in the bullpen, who knows, we might not even get to use him. I kind of want to see him out there. He's a big-time game pitcher, he's not a deer in headlights when things come his way."

The 22-year-old right-hander was expected to play a prominent role as the No. 2 starter behind Ben Sheets, after going 9-5 with a 3.67 ERA following his midseason callup last year.

But Gallardo, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee just before spring training, made only three starts before tearing a ligament in his right knee while trying to hurdle a baserunner against the Chicago Cubs on May 1.

After the injury, Gallardo kept pitching, finishing two more innings. In his three starts, he didn't have a decision with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.

Gallardo recently came back from Arizona, where he threw 75 pitches in a simulated game. He said he was a little surprised he's been tabbed to start for the first time in 147 days.

"After I saw the doctor and we had a conversation with Dale, like I said earlier, wherever they want to use me, whatever the opportunity is. If they want me to start, I'll be able to start. If they want me to come out of the bullpen, whatever it might be," he said Wednesday.

Gallardo told reporters on Tuesday that he hadn't run the bases or swung the bat, but took batting practice on Wednesday. He said Wednesday he's not sure what he'll actually be able to do at the plate or what will happen if he comes up in a key situation.

"It'll be interesting to see. We'll have to sit down and discuss what we're going to do," Gallardo said.

Sveum, who took over when Ned Yost was fired on a 2-8 road trip last week, settled on Jeff Suppan (0-3, 10.47 ERA in last four starts) to pitch Friday's series opener against the Cubs, followed by Sheets if his sore elbow feels better.

"That'll take some small miracle, I think, for that to happen," Sveum said.

If Sheets can't make the start, Dave Bush will go on three days' rest, and CC Sabathia would be on short rest for the third straight time for Sunday's final regular season game.

"We've kind of made our decisions and we're going to stick with them," Sveum said. "Everybody knows that now."

Gallardo's performance will help determine whether a Sunday start would even matter, and he acknowledged he'd be nervous when he took the mound.

"I've been out for so long, it's going to be kind of tough," Gallardo said. "It's kind of like the beginning of the year for me, especially with the situation we're in now. I'm just very excited. We'll see how it goes."

Sveum is a big believer in momentum, unlike Yost, who went out of his way to doubt it. The pitcher believes that Prince Fielder's winning homer with two outs in the ninth in a 7-5 victory Tuesday followed by a strong performance by Sabathia on Wednesday night could carry over.

"There's always one play, there's always one game, there's always one turning point that turns the season around or whatever it might be," Sveum said. "Momentum is a huge thing in this industry."