PHOENIX -- Brewers starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy was cleared to resume baseball activities on Thursday after an examination of his fractured right pinkie finger.

Lucroy returned to Dr. Don Sheridan, who last week inserted a pin in Lucroy's finger to aid the healing process. X-rays on Thursday showed the joint was healing as expected, and Lucroy was fitted with a splint. The club announced he can resume catching bullpen sessions and doing some light throwing.

That was welcome news for the Brewers' No. 1 catcher, who was growing tired of inactivity while recovering from the first significant injury of his career. He expects to stay familiar with Brewers pitchers by warming them up in the bullpen before they enter games.

"It's great," he said. "It feels good to be able to get back on the field, get some work done and join the rest of the team. The separation kills me. I don't feel like I'm part of the team when I'm out there standing around."

Lucroy was hurt in a fielding drill on Feb. 23 and is expected to need about four weeks of recovery time. The Brewers will determine later this month whether he'll need to begin the season on the disabled list. Opening Day is March 31 in Cincinnati.

In another injury development, manager Ron Roenicke said infielder Mat Gamel had been backed off fielding drills because he was not making progress with a strained muscle along his right rib cage. He was to take some ground balls on Thursday and some swings on Friday to gauge whether the strategy helped.

"If we're not making any progress, we'll go back to not doing much," Roenicke said. "We weren't gaining a whole lot of ground, so that's why we backed him off, really from doing almost any activity. I guess we're making a little progress now, so we're trying to step up some things."

Parra tweaks back; others make progress

PHOENIX -- Manny Parra exited after throwing only one pitch to his second A's batter on Thursday because of mid-back tightness, the same ailment that delayed the left-hander's Cactus League debut in the first place.

Parra said he's often plagued by a stiff back at this time of year and said he considered it "normal," though normally the problem would have subsided by now. He struck out Oakland shortstop Eric Sogard, threw one pitch to Coco Crisp and then was visited on the mound by assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright and left the game.

Thursday's tightness was the same as he'd been experiencing in recent weeks. Parra will be evaluated again on Friday morning.

"We're going to come [in Friday] and see where we're at," he said. "The ball was coming out good, but I couldn't really rotate all the way. It will be fine."

Parra is not the only Brewers reliever spending time in the training room. Closer John Axford and setup men Takashi Saito and LaTroy Hawkins all have yet to make their Cactus League debuts, and neither have roster hopefuls Pat Egan and Mitch Stetter.

"It's a little unusual for your bullpen guys, because they're usually just throwing an inning," manager Ron Roenicke said.

At least the rest of those players were on the right track:

• Axford was set back by a bout of food poisoning, an unfortunate side effect of his Valentine's Day dinner with wife Nicole. The Brewers took a cautious approach with Axford while he regained strength, and he's to debut against the Giants on Friday in Scottsdale, Ari

• Hawkins (shoulder) and Saito (hip and hamstring) each threw bullpen sessions on Wednesday with no setbacks, according to Roenicke.

"[Hawkins] is a happy camper again this morning, so that's good," Roenicke said.

Hawkins' 20-pitch session marked his first mound work since major shoulder surgery last August. He won't appear in games until mid-month at the earliest. Saito asked that his Cactus League debut to be pushed back because of tightness that he worried could lead to trouble with his right shoulder, as it did in 2010. He is expected to make his Brewers debut on Saturday against the Angels.

The issues were not limited to the established pitchers.

Stetter, trying to regain the foothold in the organization that he had in 2009, when he made 71 appearances in the Majors, suffered a strained muscle behind his left shoulder prior to camp, but is scheduled for a bullpen on Friday.

The latest name to come up in Roenicke's morning meetings with reporters was Egan's. The 6-foot-8 righty has been slowed by tightness around his right hip, Roenicke said, but is expected to throw off a mound on Friday, perhaps against the Giants. Egan had a similar ailment last spring with the Orioles.

Egan is particularly interesting partly because he's a Rule 5 Draft pick, and would have to stick on Milwaukee's 25-man roster or be offered back to the Orioles.

"I'm not concerned about them being ready to pitch [at the start of the season], but what I'm concerned about is if guys are trying to make the team and they're hurt, then, yes, they need to be out there to throw as much as they can," Roenicke said. "[Egan] would certainly be one of them. Any time you have a Rule 5 guy, you have to see as much of him as you can."

Minor Leaguer Dedrick suspended

PHOENIX -- Brewers Minor League third baseman Wayne Dedrick was suspended 50 games Thursday after a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He tested positive for a drug of abuse, according to the Commissioner's Office.

Dedrick was a 30th-round pick of the Brewers in 2008 who batted .227 in 46 games at rookie-level Arizona in 2009, but missed all of last season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Dedrick's suspension is effective at the start of the 2011 Arizona League season.

He was punished under the same set of rules that applied to former Brewers pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress, a former first-round pick twice suspended for what he revealed was marijuana use. Under the rules, a player is not suspended for his first positive test but gets 50 games for a second, 100 games for a third and a lifetime ban for a fourth positive. 

The Brewers traded Jeffress to the Royals in December as part of the Zack Greinke deal.

Last call

Left-hander Dan Merklinger was giddy after pitching in his first big league Spring Training game against the Cubs on Wednesday. "I was so excited," he said. "But the mound is still 60 feet, six inches [from home plate]. Crazy how that works." ... Zack Greinke will make his second spring start on Sunday against the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., but manager Ron Roenicke is planning to attend the Brewers' other spliut-squad game, against the A's in Phoenix. He wants to see left-handers Chris Narveson and Manny Parra pitch. Bench coach Jerry Narron and pitching coach Rick Kranitz will probably go with Greinke.