Rivera back to prove he belongs with Brewers

Rivera back to prove he belongs with Brewers

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."