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02/18/11 3:41 PM EST

Rivera back to prove he belongs with Brewers

PHOENIX -- Back with the Brewers after a year away, catcher Mike Rivera wants to prove the team made a mistake in letting him go.

Non-tendered by Milwaukee in December 2009 partly because he was eligible for arbitration for the first time and due a raise, Rivera is back in camp on a Minor League contract and bidding to impress a new manager but the same front office. Rivera knows he's a long shot for the Opening Day roster because his two primary competitors for the Brewers' backup catcher job -- Wil Nieves and George Kottaras -- are on the 40-man roster and out of Minor League options. Rivera would be willing to go to Triple-A Nashville, but for now he's focused on Milwaukee.

"I feel like they took it away from me after three years here of doing a pretty decent job," Rivera said. "I lost 25 pounds and I'm in the best shape I've ever been in baseball. I feel comfortable that I know everybody. Hopefully, I get the chance to make it hard for them to make a decision."

Rivera believes that former Brewers manager Ken Macha played a role in the team's decision to let him go after 2009. Rivera was arbitration-eligible, but says he would not have broken the bank.

"I wasn't going to make $1 million in arbitration," he said. "They -- probably mostly Macha -- wanted to change the whole catching style because we did so bad the year before. It's part of the business."

Rivera hooked on with the Yankees but was released in Spring Training. He went to the Dodgers but got sick and was banished all the way down to Double-A. Then he escaped to the Marlins and played sparingly in the Majors late in the season. During a September visit to Miller Park, he had a chat with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin behind the batting cage and the idea of a comeback was born.

"He let me know the whole situation and that they want me back, that what happened was kind of a little mistake," Rivera said. "Last year was my hardest year since I was in rookie ball, with three different teams. It made me realize I really miss the guys here. Hopefully, I get my chance to show I can fit in the job."

Gamel to vie for utility role

PHOENIX -- Third-base prospect Mat Gamel was among the first Spring Training arrivals this year, and that's a good thing. He's going to be busy.

Manager Ron Roenicke said Gamel would see spring action at the corner outfield spots and first base in addition to his usual duties at third. He'll be among the players considered for an Opening Day spot on the Brewers' bench.

"The guy can hit," Roenicke said. "So if he can make us believe he can play a lot of positions, it helps him in making teams."

Gamel missed the start of last season after suffering a spring "lat" injury but still managed to bat .304 with 14 home runs and 74 RBIs in 96 games at three levels. He'll turn 26 in late July and has one Minor League option remaining.

Does he seem open to embracing a utility role?

"I haven't had enough conversations to really know that answer," Roenicke said, "but you would think that if you're in his shoes, you would be open to anything."

Last call

Closer John Axford is gaining back weight after a bout of food poisoning, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. Axford slightly increased his activity on Friday but will not throw off a mound for a few more days. ... The second day of formal workouts for Brewers pitchers and catchers bore striking similarities to the first. "It's just Day 2 of Groundhog Day," Roenicke said. ... A pair of 2010 Brewers made news elsewhere on Friday. Outfielder Jim Edmonds announced his retirement from baseball because of a lingering Achilles injury that dogged him last year with the Brewers and Reds. He had signed a Minor League deal with the Cardinals but never reported to camp. And utility man Joe Inglett signed a Minor League contract with the Rays that included an invitation to big league camp. Inglett was non-tendered by the Brewers in December after leading the Majors in 2010 with 20 pinch-hits, including four triples. ... Pitchers Zach Braddock and Brandon Kintzler, outfielder Chris Dickerson and catcher Jonathan Lucroy signed 2011 contracts on Friday, a formality considering they all have less than three years of Major League service. Only five members of the team's 40-man roster remain unsigned.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.