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03/21/08 8:45 PM ET

Rottino, Stetter head to Nashville

Brewers send pair to Triple-A to fill bigger roles

PHOENIX -- Be patient, Brewers officials told catcher Vinny Rottino and reliever Mitch Stetter on Friday, and prepare to fill more prominent roles for Triple-A Nashville.

The Brewers optioned both players to Nashville following a 4-3 win over the Padres in which neither took part. Stetter, who has served as a left-handed specialist in the past, will be stretched out to a setup role, and Rottino was told he'll be Nashville's No. 1 catcher.

"We think Vinny is young enough and hasn't been given a chance on a full-time basis," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We like the strides that he's made."

Rottino, a native of Racine, Wis., just south of Milwaukee, was the final position player to miss the cut last spring. This time, Melvin opted to send him down before the team played its exhibitions at Miller Park.

Rottino has only recently dedicated himself exclusively to catching. Last year at this time, he was battling for a roster spot as the team's 25th man and would have played first and third base and the outfield in addition to catching on occasion. Now the Brewers see him as a more viable option behind the plate.

"He wants to focus on catching, so we're going to have him do that," Melvin said. "We're void of catching prospects. [Lou] Palmisano went down with the knee surgery. [Angel] Salome is probably in A-ball or Double-A. We're thin, and right now [Rottino] is our best catching prospect."

Rottino's departure leaves Eric Munson and Mike Rivera as candidates to back up starting catcher Jason Kendall. Either Munson or Rivera could decline an assignment to Nashville, Melvin said, to seek a big league job elsewhere.

Stetter, meanwhile, is expected to pitch the seventh or eighth inning at Nashville in front of closer Luis Pena, assistant GM Gord Ash said.

"He needs now just to get over the hump in terms of getting out of the left-handed-specialist role," Ash said. "We'd like to see him dominate right-handed hitters a little more. ... He did a very good job for us and came a long way in a year."

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Stetter embraced the plan, saying earlier in the week that he is varying his arm angle against right-handed hitters to achieve better deception. He posted a 3.52 ERA in eight Spring Training appearances.

"You don't want to limit yourself to just being good against lefties," Stetter said. "It's disappointing. Real disappointing. But I understand. They signed a lot of veteran guys and they're kind of running out of room there in the bullpen. I just have to go down to Nashville and keep a good head about everything."

With Stetter sent down and Randy Choate out with a broken hand, the Brewers will enter the season with Brian Shouse as the only lefty in the bullpen.

"I threw well at the end of the year last year [as a Brewers' September callup], had a great fall league and threw well in Spring Training," Stetter said. "There's nothing else I could have done. I just have to be ready when my time comes."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.