Notes: Miller could return Saturday

Notes: Miller could return Saturday

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Damian Miller's strained left calf was still not 100 percent, but it felt good enough Friday that the Brewers' veteran catcher was lobbying for some playing time.

Miller's Cactus League debut could come as early as Saturday, when the Brewers travel to Phoenix Municipal Stadium to face one of his former teams, Oakland. Miller has not played since an intrasquad game Feb. 27, when his calf tightened up after scoring from first base on a double.

"No offense to them, but I'm tired of being in the trainers' room," Miller said.

Newly-acquired Johnny Estrada is expected to serve as Milwaukee's primary catcher this season, but Miller figures to see action as the backup catcher and first baseman. That latter role, as a fall back to first baseman Prince Fielder, could be especially important if the Brewers elect to use infielder Tony Graffanino primarily at third base.

Starting with Saturday's game, Milwaukee has 14 spring games left on the schedule, including a pair in Texas just before Opening Day.

"Seeing pitches is probably the most important thing I have to do now," Miller said. "I don't need many at-bats to be ready. Maybe 15-20 at-bats, and I feel ready.

"Fortunately, the injury happened at a good time in spring. Had it happened now, who knows how long I would have missed."

Brewers manager Ned Yost said he will try to see Miller both behind the plate and at first base. Miller, 37, has appeared at first in just three of his 931 games over 10 seasons, but he said he played there extensively in high school and at Viterbo University.

"I just want to see if he's an option there," Yost said. "From what I've seen so far, he is."

Said Miller: "I just have to get used to it again. I always talk to Prince and [infield coach Dale] Sveum. They help me out. I'm actually looking forward to doing it, especially if it gets me in there for some more at-bats."

In 101 games last year, including 98 starts behind the plate, Miller batted .251 with six home runs and 38 RBIs. He exercised a $2.5 million player option for 2007 after the Brewers declined his team option.

Options, but no options: For the first time in years, the Brewers have some depth at catcher. How long that remains the case remains to be seen.

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Both Mike Rivera and J.D. Closser have enjoyed solid springs, and the organization would love to stash them at Triple-A Nashville. But both players are out of Minor League options, and would have to pass through waivers before accepting that assignment.

"I've already talked to both of those guys about it -- there are more teams than just the Brewers out there watching you play," Miller said.

Rivera hit .268 in 46 games with the Brewers last season and caught the final 10 games while Miller nursed back, hamstring and Achilles injuries. The team claimed Closser off waivers from Colorado in October.

Nice save: Derrick Turnbow was spared an earned run and what would have been his first blown save of the spring on an appeal play in the bottom of the eighth inning of the Brewers' 3-2 win over the Angels.

Turnbow walked the first hitter he faced, Adam Pavkovich, and Pavkovich motored around the bases when Chone Figgins followed with an extra-base hit down the right-field line. Before throwing his next pitch Turnbow threw over to third, and Pavkovich, who missed third base, was ruled out.

"After that, he was nails, man," Yost said of Turnbow. "He didn't give up a thing."

Turnbow has pitched six scoreless innings this spring.

The Brewers also got a stellar pitching performance from right-hander Claudio Vargas, who worked this week with pitching coach Mike Maddux on a mechanical adjustment. Vargas threw 63 pitches in six innings, allowing two runs on four hits.

Last call: Yost removed many of the regulars from the lineup for Friday's game after Angels manager Mike Scioscia sent only a handful of Major League players to Thursday's game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Estrada was among the players who reported Friday morning and were surprised to not see their names on the travel list. ... Minor League games begin Saturday, and coaches like Triple-A manager Frank Kremblas and hitting coach Harry Spillman, who have been helping out in big league camp, will report to the Minor League complex. ... Right-hander Dave Bush is scheduled to start Saturday against A's lefty Joe Kennedy. Grant Balfour, Dennis Sarfate, Brian Shouse and Greg Aquino are also scheduled to appear for Milwaukee. Meanwhile, right-hander Carlos Villanueva is scheduled to get his innings in Minor League camp.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.