Outlook: Thornburg will battle for rotation spot

MESA, Ariz. -- The addition of Matt Garza gave the Brewers' starting rotation a much-needed boost, but for one young up-and-comer, that roster move probably means having to wait a little longer to settle into a Major League role.

Right-hander Tyler Thornburg, the club's third-round pick in the 2010 Draft, impressed management last year with two solid auditions, going a combined 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA over 18 games, including seven starts. He took the mound against the Cubs on Sunday unsure where he would begin the season -- he could make the team as a reliever or start the year at Triple-A -- but with a handful of outings remaining on the spring schedule, he is blocking out the what-ifs and focusing on the here and now.

General manager Doug Melvin spoke briefly with Thornburg at FanFest about the Garza signing, and around the same time pitching coach Rick Kranitz also reached out. It is clear Thornburg is part of the Brewers' future, even if Garza knocks him down a notch on the depth chart for the time being.

"It certainly made it tougher for him to be one of those five guys," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're still stretching him out. He's got the start today and at least mapped out a couple more starts. Then we need to see where we're at. It's nice to have him stretched out because he certainly is a guy that proved last year that he deserves that opportunity. Even though we're excited to get Garza, for him it makes it a lot more difficult."

Thornburg allowed two runs on three hits over four innings against the Cubs. He yielded a first-inning home run to Justin Ruggiano but settled in and retired eight straight until Ruggiano singled in the fourth.

"It was probably an outing that I was most excited about while I'm going through it," he said. "When you're going through things, especially early in Spring Training, things just don't feel right. Sometimes it takes one pitch, one inning, something, and then it just all of a sudden clicks and you remember what you did when you were being successful. That's exactly what happened in between the first and second."

Aramis to play every other day in first week

KC@MIL: Aramis talks about his spring debut

MESA, Ariz. -- One day after making his spring debut, third baseman Aramis Ramirez reported no after-effects physically.

"Everything came out the way I expected," he said.

Ramirez went 2-for-2, including a bases-clearing double, with a walk against the Royals on Saturday. It was his first appearance in a game since his surgery to remove a polyp from his colon in mid-February.

The plan is for Ramirez to play every other day for a week and then be re-evaluated by the club's medical staff. He fully expects to be cleared to play on a more regular basis once the week is complete.

Ramirez's return to third base probably means utility infielder Juan Francisco, who absorbed most of the playing time in Ramirez's absence, will get more looks at first base moving forward through spring.

Single blemish of '13 is motivation for Nelson

Top Prospects: Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Brewers

MESA, Ariz. -- More than five months later, Jimmy Nelson is still irked about those three walks he issued against the Mets in his first Major League start.

"I like to think I'm intense," he said. "It's something I've always been. Even since I was a younger kid, I was always competitive."

So part of Nelson, MLB.com's highest-rated Brewers prospect last year, is still affected by those walks last Sept. 28 at Citi Field, where he allowed one Mets run and only one hit over five innings. What annoys Nelson is that the run originated with a walk of Lucas Duda, who advanced to second base on a wild pitch and to third on a groundout before he scored on Daniel Murphy's sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1.

The teams traded late runs and went into extra innings before the Brewers won, 4-2, in the 10th.

"I felt like I did my job giving us a chance to win, and I was pleased with that," Nelson said. "But it was more of a battle than something I just let happen. My command kind of got away from me a little bit there, and I had to battle through it. I got through those five innings, and you look back on it and I only gave up that one run, but that run that scored was a walk. As a very intense guy I look at it as, if I don't walk that guy, maybe we don't go into extras and we win the game in nine."

Nelson pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout -- and no walks -- in Saturday's walk-off win over the Royals. He has surrendered two earned runs on four hits in three innings so far this spring. Barring a tremendous spate of injuries to Brewers starters, he will probably begin the season back at Triple-A Nashville, where he finished last season.

In 27 starts between Double-A Huntsville and Nashville, Nelson was 10-10 with a 3.25 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings. After a callup to Milwaukee, he posted a 0.90 ERA in three relief appearances and the one start. Duda's was the only run charged to Nelson in the big leagues.

He hopes to bring his fiery mound manner back to Milwaukee in 2014.

"Sometimes, that intensity is a double-edged sword," Nelson said. "I've had to learn in pro ball how to control that emotion. It can work both ways, but as long as you control it, it's definitely positive. People that are very intense and competitive have to realize what we can control and can't control. Once you that, you're going to be a lot better off."

Last call

• A recent flap between the Red Sox and the Marlins drew national attention after the Marlins publicly expressed disgust toward Boston's decision to not bring any "marquee" players to its road game against Miami. The rule is generally that a team must bring four projected starters on road trips and three in split-squad scenarios.

A similar situation arose recently at the Brewers facility, where the Rockies fielded a team mostly void of recognizable players. Roenicke, though, seemed unfazed and addressed it diplomatically.

"It's difficult sometimes," he said. "When you have a couple of injuries and you want to give a guy a day off, it's hard to get them out there. I try to do it. I try to follow by what they tell me I'm supposed to do. But there are times when you are not able to do it."

• The Cubs' new facility in Mesa includes several nuances found at Wrigley Field, including: a replica of the clock that sits above the scoreboard; a seating berm in the outfield that slopes at the same angle as the bleachers at Wrigley; and overhangs behind the dugouts that block out the sun.

Cubs Park is also drawing well, as Wrigley tends to do during the summer months. Sunday's announced attendance: 14,770.

"I think the regular season's a little different from an adrenaline and intensity perspective, but I think in terms of atmosphere, this is as close as you can get," Ryan Braun said.