GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Top Brewers pitching prospect Mark Rogers may still end up making a start or two in place of the injured Zack Greinke, but he won't be the first to do it.

The Brewers optioned Rogers to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, the morning after the right-hander made a Cactus League debut against the Giants that was delayed by some early-camp stiffness in his surgically repaired shoulder. The Brewers need someone to fill in for Greinke beginning April 6, and Rogers will only be built up to about 75 pitches by then.

"We didn't feel he could be ready in time," assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "He needs to be ready the next time."

That next time the club needs a fifth starter would be April 16, then again April 26. Rogers will be considered for those assignments, depending on his progress. With Milwaukee's other pitchers working deeper into games, the club will more easily find innings and starts for him in Minor League camp.

Manager Ron Roenicke made clear that the club's decision had nothing at all to do with Rogers' outing against the Giants. He surrendered two runs on three hits, including a long home run by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, and in Roenicke's view, appeared cautious.

"It has nothing to do with [Monday]," Roenicke said. "We were pleased he went out and pitched in a game and felt healthy, and that he came out today feeling healthy. He's on one inning now and I starters are on five innings. I just don't think he's able to catch up."

Roenicke mentioned the same three candidates to start April 6 that he named previously: Fellow right-handed prospect Wily Peralta or nonroster pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz or Marco Estrada. Both De La Cruz and Estrada have appeared in Cactus League games for the Brewers, and Estrada made a spot start for them in 2010.

Besides Rogers, the Brewers returned banged-up outfielder Caleb Gindl to Minor League camp on Monday. The moves left 45 players on the big league Spring Training roster.

Gamel back in action for Brewers

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Mat Gamel expected to see a few innings at third base on Tuesday, but instead reported to camp and saw his name in the lineup at designated hitter. He'll take it.

Gamel had yet to appear in a game because of a rib-cage strain he suffered in the very early days of Spring Training. He was 1-for-2 with a single in his first plate appearance, and a walk in his third.

"I've been taking [batting practice] on the field for the last four days, and I'm not apprehensive about it at all," he said. "I feel like I'm past it. I'm in the lineup, and that's all I care about."

The next step is playing defense. Coming into camp, the Brewers planned to use Gamel at a number of different positions in Spring Training games, but the quickly depleting schedule will make that difficult. He's expected to spell Casey McGehee at third base in the middle innings on Wednesday.

"I feel like I'm ready to go," Gamel said.

Versatility key in Crew's infield battle

PHOENIX -- The Brewers want a right-handed bat for their final infield vacancy, and are putting a premium on defensive versatility.

"The more injuries you have, the more you look at that piece that's got to fill in [and realize] that he's got to be a little bit versatile," manager Ron Roenicke said.

The Brewers have been bugged by a slew of spring injuries, so it was almost out of necessity on Tuesday that Luis Cruz, a shortstop, made his second spring start in left field against the Indians. First baseman Erick Almonte is expected to play the outfield in Wednesday's game against the Mariners, and the 33-year-old has also been taking ground balls at shortstop, his original position as a young Yankees prospect.

Through Monday, Almonte was batting .425 with three home runs and nine RBIs, and was tied with outfielders Brandon Boggs and Jeremy Reed for the team lead in at-bats.

"He may end up getting 100 at-bats in spring," said Roenicke, who has been impressed with the quality of Almonte's at-bats.

Tough days for Crew's back-end bullpen arms

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It was a forgettable few days for the three relievers who helped stabilize the Brewers' bullpen last season.

On Monday and Tuesday, left-hander Zach Braddock and right-handers Kameron Loe and John Axford combined to allow seven earned runs on seven hits -- including two home runs -- in 2 1/3 innings. Braddock worked Monday against the Giants, and Loe and Axford on Tuesday against the Indians.

Axford, the team's second-year closer, had a particularly tough day. He faced five batters and did not retire any of them, exiting with two runs across and the bases loaded. In the end, he was charged with three runs on three hits and two walks.

"It's command, still," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He leaves the ball up, and he just can't get the command to throw the ball where he wants to, breaking stuff and fastballs. ... He knows. He's got to pitch."

Braddock allowed two runs on a walk, a hit batsman and a two-run home run by left-handed-hitting Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff on Monday. In his first 5 1/3 spring innings, Braddock has allowed five earned runs, six hits and three walks.

"The velocity is not coming out as good as it was during the season," said Roenicke, who's gotten reports from bullpen coach Stan Kyles and pitching coach Rick Kranitz. "It may be Zach trying to work on throwing strikes, throwing down in the zone. I know he's working on his slider. You hope that velocity, here in the next two weeks, shows up."

Braddock is not fighting any medical issues, Roenicke said.

Worth noting

Both center fielder Carlos Gomez (back) and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt (right quadriceps) were held out of Tuesday's lineup because of muscle stiffness. Gomez is questionable for Wednesday's night game against the Mariners, but Roenicke was hoping Betancourt would return. ... X-rays were negative on outfielder Chris Dickerson, so he was diagnosed with bruised right ribs after a scary collision with Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval on Monday. ... Flags at Goodyear Ballpark flew at half-staff Tuesday to honor Army Corporal Frank W. Buckles, the last surviving veteran of World War I until he died last month. Buckles was 110.