PHOENIX -- The Brewers used Mat Gamel's final Minor League option when they shipped the infielder to Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday, ending a bid for an Opening Day roster spot that never really began.
Gamel missed the first two weeks of Cactus League games with a right rib-cage strain he suffered early in Spring Training. He suffered a similarly ill-timed injury in 2010, when a torn muscle behind his right shoulder cost him a chance to compete for a big-league job.
The 25-year-old is a career .302 hitter in the Minor Leagues. He will spend time at Triple-A for the fourth consecutive season. His option is good all year, meaning the Brewers can promote Gamel to the Majors and demote him to the Minors multiple times in 2011.
The tougher decision could come in 2012, when Gamel will be out of options, and potentially a key player for the Brewers if Prince Fielder departs via free agency. Gamel came up as a third baseman, but was tried at first base and the corner outfield spots last season. He will move around again at times in 2011 but will focus early in the season at first base, general manager Doug Melvin said.