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03/17/11 5:39 PM ET

Inbox: Greinke's return considered open ended

Brewers beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions

PHOENIX -- Since a green-goateed Kameron Loe already provided the Happy St. Patrick's Day message, I'll get straight to emptying the Inbox (and taking a few Tweets, too).

What's the time frame on Zack Greinke's injury? Will he have to play a few games in the Minors? When do you think he'll return to the Majors?
-- @jmaerzke via Twitter

The time frame is he'll be ready when he's ready, and he isn't ready yet. I'm not trying to be glib -- the Brewers really do not know when Greinke's ribs will be pain free, and until that happens he will not get back on a mound. He's riding the stationary bike and doing medicine-ball drills for now.

When he does begin a throwing program, it will be easier to project Greinke's absence. The typical starter follows a progression of six spring starts that increases by 15 pitches each time out, so 15 pitches in the first start, 30 in the second and so on to 90. Six starts times every five days is 30 days.

Whether the Brewers will push Grienke faster, I don't know. I don't think they know yet, because it will depend on how he feels as he moves along. But it's going to take some time, and it is very easy to see Greinke missing all of April.

Considering he'll earn about $2.25 million in that span, it could prove to be one costly rebound for the ballclub.

How are things different under Roenicke? Different training? Different atmosphere? Players more relaxed? Happier?
-- @mikelinny via Twitter

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The training is not any different under the new manager Ron Roenicke, and the clubhouse is the same, but it has been a bit of a different team on the field. Take the day Prince Fielder went after the Dodgers reliever who celebrated a strikeout of Casey McGehee. I'm not sure the team's two previous skippers would have liked that, but Roenicke praised Fielder's competitive fire. Then there was Tuesday, when Fielder was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Ken Macha for sure would have been irritated; Roenicke loved it.

I'm certainly not saying any managerial style is right or wrong. But I do believe that this manager's style is very well suited to this particular roster.

Will Mat Gamel play primarily first in Triple-A? He is blocked at every other position and, to me, this is his last season in the Minors, so he is a logical replacement for Fielder next year.
-- Eric P., Madison

It's more likely that Gamel will continue moving around the field, playing the corner infield and corner outfield spots, and increasing his versatility in case the Brewers need a bat in season. He had a very good chance of winning a spot on the 2010 Opening Day roster before suffering a lat injury, and he probably had a shot again in 2011 before his rib-cage issue. Ill-timed injuries have just killed that guy.

As Eric pointed out, Gamel will be out of Minor League options when the Brewers send him down later this month, and I agree that he is a potential replacement if Fielder departs via free agency. He can definitely hit; you just hope he finds a way to stay healthy.

Erick Almonte is looking awesome at the plate this spring. Since he has mainly been playing first base and if he even makes the team as a backup, will he get any playing time on the field defensively?
-- Tim D., Milwaukee

Beware the outstanding Spring Training stats of a Winter Leaguer. Casey McGehee parlayed his hot 2009 Spring Training into a job and has proven no fluke, but for every McGehee I can show you three Lyle Moutons. Give Almonte credit for his outstanding spring so far, but remember that roster decisions don't weigh spring stats very heavily. I'm still guessing that Luis Cruz has a great chance to make the team because he's on the roster and is a true shortstop.

How does the option situation look for the Brew Crew? I know Luis Cruz doesn't have any options remaining, but what about the rest of the roster?
-- Aaron C., Green Bay

The great site Brewerfan.net does a fine job of tracking the option count, and of the players fighting for a job (in other words, we're leaving Craig Counsell, Mark Kotsay and Loe off this list), here are the 40-man roster guys out of options: Brandon Boggs, Luis Cruz, Sean Green, George Kottaras, Wil Nieves and Manny Parra.

Is Roenicke planning on carrying a 12- or 13-man staff? Who is the last in/out?
-- @JoeKocinski via Twitter

Both. Because of the Greinke injury, the Brewers will mix and match in the fifth starter slot and only need that pitcher three times in April, tentatively April 6, 16 and 26. Between those dates, there is a very good chance they will option that starter down and pull up another player, possibly a reliever.

It's very difficult to predict last in/last out right now because of the uncertain status of relievers like Parra and LaTroy Hawkins, who are working through injuries. Those questions will have to be answered very late in camp.

Are there more injuries happening this year or is this considered "normal?"
-- @leisa2 via Twitter

Little injuries like stiff backs and sore quads are extremely normal. Having seven of your nine projected Opening Day starters either come out of a Spring Training game, miss a game or never get in a game in the first place, now that's not normal. And that's why Roenicke is a bit anxious these days.

Carlos Gomez seems to be thriving in the two-spot of the lineup. Will he stay there for the regular season, or will Corey Hart take that spot over again once he gets healthy?
-- Frank D., Madison, Wis.

I get the feeling that Roenicke would like to use Gomez in the two-hole, or even the leadoff spot, but he'll have to get on base at a .350 or .360 clip or better to really solidify that job. Hart, for some reason, seems comfortable hitting second, with a .283 batting average and .344 on-base mark in his career. So barring a big leap forward for Gomez, who has had a very nice spring, I'm guessing Hart fills that spot when he returns.

I was at a Wisconsin Timber Rattler game a couple years back, the game in which Steve Braun (Ryan's brother) shattered his ankle. Up until that point in the season, he was producing. I am wondering if he ever came back from that. Is he still in the system somewhere?
-- Tyler F., Fond du Lac, Wis.

The younger Braun did return to the field in 2010 but batted .140 at advanced Class A Brevard County. The Brewers released him in December.

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