(SportsNetwork.com) - The Milwaukee Brewers kick off their 2015 season on Monday with the start of a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park.
For a good part of the 2014 season it looked as if Milwaukee was going to win the National League Central. In fact, the Brewers spent 153 days atop the division.
Two awful stretches, though, doomed them. They lost 11 of 12 at one point, then from Aug. 20 through the end of the season, the Brewers went 11-25 and ended up finishing eight games back of the division champion St. Louis Cardinals with an 82-80 mark.
Milwaukee did little to help itself this offseason and brings back almost the exact same roster. On the bright side it was a team that spent a lot of time in first place and did so with an injured Ryan Braun.
One player who did break out was catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who finished fourth in NL MVP voting. He along with St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina might be the two most irreplaceable players in the game.
Even with Braun's thumb issues last season the Brewers were sixth in the NL in runs scored. Carlos Gomez is as good a leadoff man as there is in the league right now, while the team hopes Adam Lind can provide some pop.
The starting staff is a huge question mark and it's a unit that won't have Yovani Gallardo to fall back on, as he was shipped to Texas as a way to save some money.
Wily Peralta won 17 games last season, but really wasn't anything special. He, and veteran righties Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza lead the way, while Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson will try to duplicate solid 2014 campaigns.
Lohse gets the call on Monday for the Brewers in his first Opening Day start for them. He was 13-9 last season and has gone 24-19 with a 3.45 ERA in his first two seasons with Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, it's been a rough and disappointing few years for the Rockies and the biggest change they made this offseason was in the front office. Longtime general manager Dan O'Dowd resigned after 15 seasons and Jeff Bridich was named as his replacement.
O'Dowd was the second GM in team history and oversaw a franchise that failed to reach 80 wins in each of the past four seasons. The Rockies haven't made it to the playoffs since 2009 and will enter another grueling season under manager Walt Weiss (140-174).
The Rockies are relying on the health of star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and talented outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Tulo and CarGo haven't lived up to expectations as far staying on the field is concerned, and Colorado is taking a huge risk that the tandem will play at least 200 to 250 games combined. Tulowitzki opened the last season on a tear before a hip injury ended it all.
Justin Morneau turned back the clock in 2014 and many wonder if his best days are gone. Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado and newcomer Nick Hundley will be looked upon to lead the club if the two stars are felled by injuries. The Rockies did lead the NL in runs scored in 2014.
When right-hander Kyle Kendrick is a club's biggest acquisition chances are expectations are quite low. Kendrick joins a putrid rotation spearheaded by Jorge De La Rosa. Jordan Lyles has potential, but this rotation has awful days ahead trying to compete in the NL West. Prospect Tyler Anderson may crack the rotation at some point this season.
It'll be Kendrick in the opener though, as he gets his first-ever Opening Day assignment. The right-hander went 10-13 with a 4.61 ERA in 32 starts for the Phillies in 2014. Both the 32 starts and 199.0 innings pitched were career- high marks for Kendrick, who has won at least 10 games in each of his last three seasons.