PHOENIX -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart has already checked the Triple-A Nashville schedule in the event he begins the season on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, had hoped to play in Minor League games by Saturday, when he turns 30. It appears that will not happen.

Because he could lead off every inning of those games once he begins play, the possibility remains that Hart could come along quickly. But assuming he does not play a Cactus League game after Sunday, the Brewers could backdate an assignment to the 15-day disabled list to March 26. Hart would then be eligible for reinstatement April 10, the Brewers' fifth game of the season.

"I understand," Hart said. "They're going to want me to get at-bats. Last year, I rushed it and I struggled when I get back. I want to make sure I'm ready, too."

Besides the matter of at-bats, there is the physical strength of his knee, still healing from a procedure in which surgeons repaired three tears to Hart's meniscus. If he played this weekend and had to slide into second base, could he? Hart concedes he isn't sure.

Manager Ron Roenicke said Hart was scheduled to begin more intense running drills on Friday and called the Opening Day possibility, "still there."

If that changes, Hart was pleased to see that Nashville begins its season in warm-weather New Orleans on April 5, one day before the Brewers open at home against the Cardinals. After four games, the Sounds travel to Oklahoma City for four more.

"I don't want to miss anything, and there's still a chance [he'll be ready for Opening Day]," Hart said. "I know I can be physically ready then, no problem, but I have to be [baseball] ready to do all the things I need to do."

The Brewers will be similarly careful with right-hander Shaun Marcum, who appears back on track after missing camp time because of shoulder stiffness. He will pitch Sunday in one of the Brewers' split-squad games, but since Monday is the 26th, could subsequently shift to Minor League games to preserve the Brewers' option to backdate a DL assignment.

Kintzler out of the mix in Brewers' bullpen

PHOENIX -- The good news is that Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler is finally throwing without pain in his right elbow, and feels he's past the mysterious ailment that derailed his Spring Training.

But Kintzler said he is not scheduled to throw off a mound until April 2, meaning he's out of the running for Milwaukee's bullpen and will have to begin the season on the disabled list. He reported to camp as a leading contender for an Opening Day roster spot.

"At least I'm not hurting," he said. "I can show up every morning on one thing, and that's throwing and getting better."

With starter Shaun Marcum on track to begin the season in the rotation, it appears the Brewers have two bullpen openings. Candidates include left-handers Zach Braddock and Manny Parra and right-handers Tim Dillard and Mike McClendon. Parra and Dillard are out of options.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke agreed that Kintzler is no longer an option for Opening Day. The same goes for left-hander Juan Perez, an early camp standout who suffered a partially collapsed lung earlier this month.

Like Kintzler, Perez is making good progress in a throwing program, but will simply run out of time.

Kintzler had been dogged for weeks by discomfort in the same elbow that bothered him last season. Surgeons inserted a screw in July to repair a fracture. A series of tests last week revealed no answers to his lingering discomfort, and Kintzler went for a second opinion from Reds physician Tim Kremchek on Sunday. Kremchek came up with a diagnosis - "throwers arm," technically called valgus extension overload -- and recommended anti-inflammatory medication and a series of deep stretching exercises. By Monday, Kintzler was already feeling better. "It sounded like there was a kink in the hose, and what they had to do was expand it back out," Kintzler said. "It feels great now."

Last call

• Second baseman Rickie Weeks hosted a dozen teammates in a suite at Phoenix's US Airways Center for Marquette University's Sweet 16 matchup against Florida.

"It was great," Weeks said, "except the outcome."

Marquette lost, 68-58.

• For the second straight day, Nyjer Morgan started in center field and Carlos Gomez in right. Manager Ron Roenicke said he wanted to give Morgan some Spring Training time in center field because that's the position he'll mostly man in the regular season. But when those two players start the same regular season game, Gomez, a top-flight defender, will be the center fielder.

• Catcher Mike Rivera said he was making progress with a strained right hamstring and could return to game action in a couple of days. He was hurt running to first base against the A's on March 13 and has not played since.