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03/28/11 8:23 PM ET

Hart aiming for mid-April return to Brewers

PHOENIX -- Right fielder Corey Hart was "a little sore" on Monday, a day after he took full batting practice for the first time since straining a rib-cage muscle last month.

He'll remain in Arizona when the Brewers break camp through the end of Triple-A games April 3, then is expected in Milwaukee for the team's April 4 home opener so Hart can see a team doctor.

By then, Hart hopes to have an idea whether he will head out for a rehabilitation assignment. The team's top four Minor League clubs begin play on April 7.

"It would be nice to be there for that Cubs series [at Miller Park from April 8-10], but I don't know if I'll be able to get enough at-bats by then," Hart said.

His next target would be the team's nine-game road trip that begins April 12 in Pittsburgh.

Manager Ron Roenicke said that catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever LaTroy Hawkins would both begin the year at warm-weather Class A Brevard County. Lucroy is recovering from a fractured right pinkie and Hawkins has been cautiously coming back from shoulder surgery.

Right-hander Zack Greinke (ribs) will travel with the big league team to continue his throwing program. Reliever Manny Parra (back) was scheduled for another bullpen session on Tuesday, and he will initially remain in Arizona with Hart to continue building up.

Greinke, Hawkins and Parra have already been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 22. As of midday Monday, the Brewers had yet to make any formal moves with Hart or Lucroy.

Marcum tired but not tight after return to mound

PHOENIX -- Shaun Marcum was tired but not tight in his return to the Brewers' starting rotation, and that made Monday's outing against the Padres a resounding success.

Marcum, bumped up to the Brewers' No. 2 starter slot in the wake of Zack Greinke's rib injury, returned to action after skipping his previous start because of a tight shoulder and delivered four innings at Maryvale Baseball Park. It went just as planned.

"Except for the homers," he said, referring to Will Venable's leadoff homer and Brad Hawpe's two-run shot in the fourth.

Marcum was charged with three runs on four hits, one walk and four strikeouts, as he threw 68 pitches in the outing. He said he felt no tightness in his shoulder, and he was pleasantly surprised by the life on his fastball.

"We got where we needed to get, up around 70 pitches," he said. "Obviously, I'd like to be up to 95, 100 pitches right now. The first 50 I felt great, and then I got a little tired, which is normal.

"I haven't thrown above 55 pitches all spring, and then you take two weeks off and come back out and throw 68, it's a challenge, fatigue-wise. The legs, body felt great, the arm just got a little tired. That was expected. ...

"I'm not a max-effort pitcher, but I've got some catching up to do. It was pretty relieving to go out and [pitch]."

Manager Ron Roenicke felt the same way.

"Really a 'relief' outing," Roenicke called it. "I know he told me he felt well and his bullpen went real well, but you never know until you get in a game, you get the adrenaline going and you throw a little bit harder. So, yeah, that was nice."

Marcum will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday in Cincinnati, then he is slated to start Saturday against the Reds.

The Brewers' offense made sure his return was a success. Left fielder Ryan Braun homered twice, second baseman Rickie Weeks also went deep and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt delivered two hits, including an RBI single.

"It seems like [the Brewers] do it every year," Marcum said. "It's fun to watch. These guys crank the ball."

Mitre expects easy transition thanks to Kranitz

PHOENIX -- Recently acquired right-hander Sergio Mitre worked 2 2/3 innings in his Brewers debut on Monday, and he figures his transition will be an easy one.

When Mitre was traded from the Yankees to the Brewers on Friday, it began his third stint with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who also had Mitre in the Cubs organization and in the Majors with the Marlins.

"He knows me very well, just about every inch of my mechanics," Mitre said. "It's not [ideal] that I come into a new team this late in spring, but it works out because he kind of knows what I'm about. He can pick things out if there is something wrong."

Mitre will begin the season as the Brewers' designated long reliever, but he's also an option to start the first time they need a fifth starter in place of the injured Zack Greinke.

Whatever Kranitz & Co. ask him to do, Mitre is fine with it.

"I'm not here to demand a role," he said. "I was brought over here because there are certain needs, and whatever they feel I'll work best at, that's what I'm going to do."

He's on the same page with his new bosses in one aspect: the importance of the sixth inning. The Brewers struggled during that frame last season, out-scored by opponents, 111-65 -- their largest deficit of any inning.

General manager Doug Melvin called it, "one of the toughest innings in the game today."

"I think he's absolutely right," Mitre said. "Whether a team is getting beat or the game is tied, the first guy out of the chute is the guy who needs to hit the brakes. I take pride in whatever role I'm going to be in, whether it's a starter or coming out of the bullpen.

"All I'm about now," Mitre said, "is winning games. I'm up for anything."

He allowed three hits in Monday's debut, including a Will Venable home run that cut the Brewers' lead to one in an eventual 5-4 win. It was his first outing in six days, and he conceded there was some expected stiffness.

"It's never easy, but it's definitely a little more difficult trying to make the move this late in spring," he said.

"I think the most important thing on a team is friendship, camaraderie, togetherness, and it's tough to try and do that when you show up with two days left in spring. It shouldn't be too difficult to acclimate with these guys."

Scorpion sting latest misfortune for Braddock

PHOENIX -- Zach Braddock reached into his locker and pulled out a plastic cap containing the offending -- and expired -- little creature. The scorpion was less than an inch long, but managed to inject the latest bit of pain into a Brewers Spring Training camp that has been full of it.

Braddock was stung on his left ankle by the scorpion on Saturday, but other than the discomfort that followed, he was spared something serious. The left-hander was slated to pitch in Monday's split-squad game against the Padres, an inning that could prove Braddock's final tuneup for a spot in Milwaukee's Opening Day bullpen.

It's been an uncomfortable spring for the 23-year-old. First, his Cactus League debut was pushed back a couple of days by a blister, and more recently, he was sidelined by a sinus infection. Braddock also spent a few days with a nasty bruise on his forehead after he bumped his head on his locker.

"I'm definitely happy to get everything out of the way now," he said.

Braddock was sitting on his couch having a casual conversation when that little scorpion ruined his day.

"It felt like someone was pulling your hair out, and then it progressively got worse," he said. "It was out of nowhere. I'm glad it's over now."

Last call

Infielder Luis Cruz, edged out of the final infield spot by non-roster invitee Erick Almonte, refused an outright assignment to Triple-A Nashville and opted for free agency. Several of his former Brewers teammates said Cruz planned to sign with the Rangers. Cruz had the right to refuse his assignment because it was his second outright. ... Minus starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, manager Ron Roenicke said the batting order on Monday against the Padres is the one he's planning to use Opening Day: Second baseman Rickie Weeks, center fielder Carlos Gomez, left fielder Ryan Braun, first baseman Prince Fielder, third baseman Casey McGehee, right fielder Mark Kotsay, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and catcher George Kottaras. Gomez will hold down the No. 2 hole until Corey Hart returns from his injury.

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.