PHOENIX -- Trevor Hoffman bristles a bit at the notion that he's "on his own program" in Spring Training, so we'll let him explain his routine in his own words.

"It's a little bit specific," Hoffman said.

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He cracks a little smile, a sign that Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader knows he's not just another new guy in camp. The truth is that Hoffman, 41 and entering his first season with the Brewers, has more input on his Spring Training "program" than any other player at Maryvale Baseball Park, down to submitting to manager Ken Macha a list of dates on which he would like to pitch. He also helps pick the innings he would like to work.

Here's a hint: Fans interested in watching Hoffman pitch should focus on Brewers "home" games in Phoenix, and they should not wait until the ninth inning to arrive.

The first of those outings was Wednesday, when Hoffman made his unofficial Brewers debut with a scoreless seventh inning in the Cactus League opener, a 3-3 tie with the Oakland A's. He threw his full arsenal of pitches, including his signature changeup, one of which third baseman Jack Hannahan lifted for a ground-rule double. It was the A's only hit in the inning, thanks to Brewers center fielder Chris Duffy, who charged in to rob second baseman Eric Patterson of a blooper.

"It was good to get out and have the competitive juices going," Hoffman said. "It's hard to duplicate the energy that comes with [pitching in a game].

"And," he added with a chuckle, "the soreness that follows."

Hoffman has developed an elaborate system over the years to keep that soreness at a minimum, and these first few Cactus League outings -- Hoffman said he will pitch again Saturday against the Angels -- offer the team's athletic training staff an opportunity to get to know his routine. He might not do anything different than other veteran pitchers in terms of his pregame warmup -- heat the arm, stretch it, get blood flowing through the joints -- but the timing is tailored to his own likes.

The way Macha understands it, once the regular season begins, Hoffman will join the rest of the relievers in the bullpen at the start of the game, but will retreat in the neighborhood of the fifth inning to begin getting loose. The goal is to get Hoffman ready to pitch just in time for a save, no easy task when you're playing a game with no timekeeper, no guarantees that a save situation will be in place and really no surety that the game will even be over in the ninth inning.

Spring Training offers a dry run for head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger, assistant athletic trainer Dan Wright and strength and conditioning specialist Chris Joyner to get to know Hoffman's habits, and vice versa. The idea is to get him into a game "hot," limiting soreness and allowing Hoffman to pile up appearances over consecutive days.

"I'm lucky to be able to come to a situation where the guys were receptive to some of the things I've gotten used to," Hoffman said. "I'm definitely not trying to create an 'own program' situation or anything like that. ...

"A lot of that is timing. It's learning each other, learning to pay attention to the game and how things are going to roll. If that means being a little bit early these days, so be it. I'd rather be ready early and sit for a little bit, rather than freak people out [while they] wonder where I'm at."

This was the understanding from the beginning. The Brewers signed Hoffman in January for one year and $6 million plus incentives, outbidding the Dodgers, after Macha and Caplinger assured the veteran righty that he could plot his own path to the regular season and beyond.

Macha worked with a number of closers during his tenure as an A's coach or manager, from Jason Isringhausen to Billy Koch to Keith Foulke to Octavio Dotel to Huston Street. There's "no doubt," Macha said, that Hoffman has the most extensive pre- and in-game routine, but the skipper said he has no problem with Hoffman's self-proclaimed "high maintenance" approach.

"If you've got more saves than anybody in the game, and your routine is working, I hope it keeps working," Macha said.

The Brewers allowed similar leeway to Eric Gagne last season after he signed for $10 million. Gagne rarely pitched in big league games, preferring to quietly do his work on the Minor League fields.

This year will be different for Gagne, who had a disappointing 2008 season and is back in camp with a Minor League contract and no guarantees. Gagne, who is nursing a slight right calf strain, is a little behind the rest of the pitchers this year, because he did not sign until last week. He said Wednesday that he'll throw live batting practice on Friday, then wait two or three days to decide whether his next step is another BP session or a game.

Hoffman knows Gagne, but he conceded Wednesday that he's still working on the first names of some of his other new teammates. One of the youngsters watching him closely is right-hander and fellow changeup specialist Carlos Villanueva, who will serve as a setup man this season, but might have been the closer had the Brewers not signed Hoffman.

In terms of pitching style, Hoffman is much more similar to Villanueva than the past few Brewers closers. Francisco Cordero was pure power, Gagne was a former power pitcher with a changeup that acts more like a screwball and Salomon Torres was a sinker specialist.

But it's off-the-mound topics that Villanueva is most looking forward to discussing with Hoffman.

"The thing I've been most impressed with is his workout routine," said Villanueva, who rode a stationary bike next to Hoffman on Tuesday. "He's 41 years old, and he has a 20-year-old body. His preparation is impressive, and you can tell it's no fluke that he's been good."

There are still wrinkles to be ironed out for Hoffman's relationship with the Brewers to be a success. The scoreboard crew at Maryvale Baseball Park blared AC/DC's "Hells Bells," the song that has ushered Hoffman into games since 1998, as he took the mound Wednesday.

Nice effort, he said with smile, but he'd rather it be reserved for the regular season.

"It was nice for the first time," Hoffman said. "But hopefully, we'll be able to correct that. Everybody gets a mulligan."