BLOG: Milwaukee Brewers spring forward

MILWAUKEE -- Stop me if you've heard this before, the Brewers are still waiting for a ruling on Ryan Braun's playing status for the start of the season.  Obviously, he's critical to anything they do.  Obviously, all involved would like to know what his future holds. Obviously, the team will be better with him on the field than not.

However, there is no reason for Milwaukee not to see itself as a contender come late May, whether Braun has played or not.  Local sports fans have seen too many cases of teams feeling sorry for themselves and creating excuses for not winning (2009 Brewers, 2010-2011 Bucks, 2005 Packers). GM Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke do not seem as though they will allow such rationalizing to take place.

Last season, the team benefited from improved pitching.  This season, the pitching must be more than a solid complement to the offense.  Jeff Suppan had a great postseason for the Cardinals in 2005, but it didn't make him a new guy or give him a new confidence.  Shaun Marcum had a lousy postseason in 2011, but maybe that won't rob him of whatever made him a solid pitcher before coming to the Brewers and for most of his first season in Milwaukee.  Yovani Gallardo is a top of the rotation starter.  Zack Greinke is a top of the rotation starter who is seeking a new contract.  Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson know how to pitch. John Axford is at the back end of the bullpen.  Francisco Rodriguez didn't mind saying he was better than his role last year, but the team will be happy to see him repeat in the setup spot this year.

One of these days, the Braun status should come into focus.  Either way, the team's expectations should be clear.