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03/28/12 8:42 PM ET

Gallardo to start third straight Opening Day

PHOENIX -- It's becoming an annual rite for the Brewers: home-grown right-hander Yovani Gallardo will be the team's Opening Day starter.

Gallardo, 26, gets the nod for the third straight season, putting him in exclusive company in terms of Brewers history. Jim Slaton and Teddy Higuera started three openers apiece, and Ben Sheets got the nod a club-record six times, including four straight Opening Days from 2002-05.

Right-hander Zack Greinke and left-hander Randy Wolf will follow Gallardo in the Brewers' season-opening series against the Cardinals at Miller Park. Righty Shaun Marcum is on track to follow April 9 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, assuming he doesn't have any shoulder setbacks before then. Lefty Chris Narveson would be the fifth starter.

"I think you go by what happens the season before. 'Yo' opened up for us last year, had a great year and we'd like him to open up again," manager Ron Roenicke said.

"It would mean a lot," Gallardo said Tuesday, when the assignment remained unofficial. "It shows you what they think of you, especially having that opportunity to hopefully do it three years in a row. It's an exciting game. You want to start the right way. The whole atmosphere of Opening Day, it's a little bit more exciting, nervous, than regular-season games. Knowing we fell a couple games short playing against the Cardinals last year, it just adds to it a little more."

The Brewers fell to St. Louis in a six-game National League Championship Series last season. Gallardo, who was sensational in the NL Division Series against the D-backs, lost Game 3 of the NLCS to the Cardinals. He went 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals in the 2011 regular season, and is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 career starts against them.

Roenicke informed Gallardo and Greinke of the plan over the previous two days. Both have started Opening Days before -- so has Marcum -- putting Roenicke in a pleasantly tough position. He said Greinke took the news well.

"I think it's really nice having Greinke going second," Roenicke said. "He would love to start Opening Day, but he's really a good team player. He understands reasoning for doing things, and he's very compliant with what we ask him to do. It was good."

Greinke lowered his Cactus League ERA to 0.93 with seven strong innings Wednesday against the D-backs. He confirmed he was on board with the decision to go with Gallardo.

"I felt like he was our guy last year, and he's been here the longest," Greinke said. "As of right now, he's still going to be here the longest. I think it makes a lot of sense. I didn't earn anything last season to be able to take over, I don't think."

Gallardo is signed through at least 2014. Greinke is entering the final year of his contract, but remains in talks with the team about an extension.

The Brewers have lost each of Gallardo's openers, but he pitched reasonably well. He pitched through the sixth inning each time and allowed five earned runs in 13 innings of those games: a 5-3 loss to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies in 2010, and a 7-6 loss to the Reds in 2011, in which Cincinnati scored four runs in the ninth inning against closer John Axford to stun the Brewers.

Picking a pitcher for the opener is "important," Roenicke said.

"We're in a rare situation where we have two No. 1 guys," he said. "And our Nos. 3, 4, 5 aren't too bad, either."

Marcum on track to start season with Crew

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke explained the team's decision to move Shaun Marcum's next outing to Minor League camp, saying officials simply want to preserve the option of a backdated, season-opening stint on the 15-day disabled list. But Roenicke made clear that Marcum, who was bothered in camp by a stiff right shoulder, remains on track to open the season as the fourth starter.

The Brewers' Plan B is right-hander Marco Estrada, who will pitch in relief on Friday in Glendale, Ariz., against the Dodgers. His workload depends on Marcum's outing in the Minors. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz will stay back to monitor Marcum, and if the outing goes well, Estrada will pitch only one inning against the Dodgers, take Saturday off and pitch again Sunday to prepare for the move to relief. But if there's an issue, Estrada will pitch multiple innings against Los Angeles to stay stretched out.

"I don't want to push [Marcum]," Roenicke said. "So why take the chance that maybe he's not quite ready? Maybe it would be better for him to skip one start and then pick it up in Atlanta [on April 14]. It doesn't make sense to push him to a spot where maybe he's not comfortable."

By keeping him out of Friday's Cactus League game, the Brewers reserve the right to backdate a stint on the DL to March 26.

Club officials will make their decision after Friday's outing, Roenicke said. If he's still progressing, Marcum could pitch the Brewers' Spring Training finale on April 4 at Chase Field against the D-backs. If any questions remain, he would pitch a Minor League intrasquad game instead.

Setup man Francisco Rodriguez will make a rare start on Friday against the Dodgers in Marcum's place.

Hart returns to action in Minor League game

PHOENIX -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart, three weeks and one day removed from surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee, returned to action and went 2-for-4 in a Triple-A game on Wednesday at Maryvale Baseball Park.

"It will be nice to get out there today and have some kind of adrenaline," Hart said earlier in the day.

He struck out in his first two at-bats, singled the third time up and then doubled. Hart, who did not play in the field, debuted without incident, and is scheduled to repeat the exercise on Thursday.

If he gets through that game without any issues, Hart could debut in the outfield on Friday, when the Sounds play the Louisville Bats in Goodyear, Ariz.

The Triple-A game had some star power Wednesday. Closer John Axford pitched two innings, a chance to build up his pitch count and get a feel for pitching, sitting and getting up to pitch again. Axford said his next step is pitching back-to-back games later this week.

Last call

• The Brewers had a couple of recognizable faces in camp on Wednesday. Funnyman Frank Caliendo, of Waukesha, Wis., drew laughs with some of his impressions during the team's daily clubhouse meeting. And actor John Gries, whose long resume includes a turn as Uncle Rico in 2004's "Napoleon Dynamite," visited with neighbor Randy Wolf for the second straight spring. Both visitors took batting practice with the Brewers.

• The Brewers optioned outfield prospects Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl to Triple-A Nashville after Wednesday's win over Arizona, leaving 33 players in Milwaukee's big league camp. Both were very impressive this spring, and Schafer in particular still has a shot at the Opening Day roster if Hart opens the season on the DL.

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.