MILWAUKEE -- Brewers rookie shortstop Jeff Bianchi made his first Major League start on Sunday, batting eighth in manager Ron Roenicke's lineup.

Bianchi didn't find out he was starting until Sunday morning, and he didn't hide how he felt after getting the news.

"The first thing I told my wife and friends and family was, 'Hey, just pray for my nerves,'" Bianchi said. "Because I'm probably going to be a little anxious and nervous, so that's never a bad thing."

Milwaukee acquired Bianchi from the Cubs this offseason after he spent the first six years of his career in the Royals organization. Having missed the 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery and battling through various other injuries, the 25-year-old Bianchi said it's been a long road to the Majors, and that makes him appreciate his opportunity even more.

Once he was called up during the All-Star break from Triple-A Nashville, where he batted .305 with 13 RBIs in 51 games this season, it didn't take long for Bianchi to find his way into the lineup. He got his first taste of the Majors on Friday, striking out in one pinch-hit appearance.

"I've been here a couple days now, and getting that at-bat definitely helped the excitement of it all," Bianchi said. "I've got that at-bat under my belt now, so I think I'm definitely ready for today."

When Bianchi arrived, Roenicke said he didn't want to wait too long to insert him into the lineup. From what the second-year manager saw in Spring Training and heard from others who have seen Bianchi play, the rookie provides a good glove and the ability to do a variety of things with the bat and on the bases. And despite the fact that Sunday marks the third game of a nine-game stretch the Brewers have described as the most important of the season, Roenicke said it was a good day to get a look at Bianchi.

"If we wait for those nine games, and then play Bianchi after that, it's not real fair for him," Roenicke said. "This is a guy everybody in the Minor Leagues likes. We've had some of our people from the front office go down and see him, and everybody likes this guy. We need to see what he can do."

Bianchi, who hails from Lancaster, Pa., about an hour outside of Philadelphia, said he had family drive in over the weekend, and he was excited they would get the chance to see him in his first big league start. He also said his new teammates have made his transition to the Majors an easy one so far.

"These guys have been very welcoming. It's been great, so I look forward to continue to just build relationships with these guys and play alongside these guys," Bianchi said.

Roenicke encouraged by Marcum's progress

MILWAUKEE -- Although the process has taken much longer than he anticipated, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said on Sunday that he's finally encouraged by the progress of injured starting pitcher Shaun Marcum.

On the disabled list with right elbow tightness since June 23 -- retroactive to June 15 -- Marcum has been limited to playing catch while he tries to work his way back. Roenicke said the 30-year-old right-hander had a planned day off Saturday, but was expected to throw again on Sunday.

"If everything goes right, he's still a few days away from getting on the mound," Roenicke said. "Then once he gets on the mound, we've got to have whatever -- two, three sessions there -- and then we go to a simulated game or live BP or something like that."

The Brewers have taken a cautious approach with Marcum, in part because he missed all of the 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. When Marcum was first scratched from his scheduled start against the Blue Jays on June 19, Roenicke expected him to miss one or two starts. Almost a month later, Roenicke now doesn't think he'll return to the rotation before August.

"For a while there I was concerned because I didn't know what was happening," Roenicke said. "Now when he goes out and plays catch, he's encouraged by it. He's increasing velocity, the irritation that was in there is not there so much, and so all those things are definitely going in the direction he's got to get before we even get him on the mound for bullpens."

Last call

• Typically a starter, right-hander Tyler Thornburg made his first Major League relief appearance on Saturday, giving up a home run to the first batter he faced. That was the only hit he surrendered in two innings, though, as he struck out two and walked three. Thornburg made his first Major League start on June 19, but he was called up over the All-Star break to bolster the bullpen.

"It was pretty cool," Thornburg said of coming out of the bullpen. "I enjoyed it. Always wish for better results, but I can't complain about my first outing, though. ... It's a lot different than starting. That late in the game, they're swinging early, and you kind of got to learn that stuff. It's a big learning experience for me."

• With Jeff Bianchi making his first Major League start on Sunday at shortstop, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was quick to defend Cody Ransom and Cesar Izturis, both of whom have been playing short in place of the injured Alex Gonzalez. Ransom, who hit a game-winning grand slam on Friday, entered Sunday batting .187 with 20 RBIs in 38 games for Milwaukee, while Izturis has a .215 average in 44

"I think when you have the personnel that you feel are utility men, are backups, I think they've done a real nice job. I think Cody's got some big hits for us. He's played good defense. Izzy, same thing. He's solid defensively at all the spots."