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Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, bring levity and leadership to Milwaukee Brewers staff

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PHOENIX - Chances are, the loudest sound that can be heard in the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse before the start of a spring training workday is pitcher Matt Garza's playful voice.

The locker to Garza's right belongs to respected righty Kyle Lohse, who can often be found sharing a laugh with his fellow starter in the midst of "Pitchers Row." The veterans, California natives and top-of-the-rotation starters, provide levity and leadership to the younger hurlers in Brewers camp.

"That's part of your responsibility as an older guy, to look out for them," Lohse said Friday. "I've learned quite a few things along the way. One of the things I tell them is you don't have to do it my way, but this is what works for me."

It sure works for manager Ron Roenicke.

Garza's addition was a surprising move. The 30-year-old has had some injury problems in his career, though he rebounded to finish 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 155 innings last season for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

Then there's that unique personality. Garza is no shy guy.

"What I like about him is he really works hard. I think that's a great combination to have. You have fun when you have fun, when you need to. But when you need to bear down, you bear down," Roenicke said. "It's really good to have personalities on a team. It's good to have characters on a team, and he's a guy that I think is going to really help us with his personality."

Garza was born in Selma, about a four-hour drive down the Golden State Highway in California from Chico, where Lohse was born. Garza and Lohse broke into the big leagues with the Twins, though Lohse debuted in 2001, five years before his teammate. They were on the Twins together briefly in 2006 before Lohse was traded at midseason to Cincinnati

Lohse finished 11-10 with a 3.35 ERA last year, his first season with Milwaukee. But this year will be Lohse's first spring training with the team since he didn't sign with the Brewers until late March in 2013.

"This is my first year up here. This is Matt's first year. He's trying to keep everybody loose as you get to know him," Lohse said. "It's important to have fun while at the same time you've got a job to do to prepare for the season."

Garza and Lohse join Yovani Gallardo, who turns 28 next week, at the top of the rotation. Emerging starter Wily Peralta, 24, slots into the fourth spot. Marco Estrada, 30, could have the inside track on the fifth spot.

Behind them are young arms that include 25-year-old right-handers Johnny Hellweg and Tyler Thornburg.

Roenicke and Lohse spoke this off-season about the righty taking more of a vocal leadership role. Lohse was more of a "lead-by-example" teammate in 2013 while he got accustomed to Milwaukee.

"You know last year missing spring training, kind of walking in right at the beginning, (he) wasn't quite sure of things," Roenicke said. "He would like to be a little more vocal, and I would like him to be more vocal, so I think it worked out."

NOTES: RHP Alfredo Figaro has been set back a couple days after bruising a thumb during a bunting drill. ... Roenicke was pleased with how OF Ryan Braun handled his news conference Thursday upon his return to the team after being suspended 65 games last year for violating Major League Baseball's drug agreement and labour contract. "I keep saying to you guys, this is really a good, young man," Roenicke said.


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