PHOENIX -- The Brewers plan to use Martin Maldonado and not veteran Mike Rivera as the No. 1 catcher at Triple-A Nashville this season.

Rivera, 34, and Milwaukee's backup catcher from 2006-09, was informed several days ago that he will not make the Brewers' Opening Day roster. He expects to back up Maldonado and will also play some first base.

"Rivera will catch enough to where, if we need somebody here [in the Majors], we can grab whatever we think we need here," manager Ron Roenicke said.

The manager called 24-year-old Maldonado, "a nice defensive catcher. He had a couple of real nice at-bats here. If you look at his bio, he hasn't had a lot of at-bats in a season, so for him to go down there and get a lot of at-bats, we're going to see, offensively, where he is. ...

"I know Bengie Molina, when he was early-on with the Angels, he wasn't getting a lot of at-bats. He was always a backup. Then he plays a lot, and all of a sudden he turns into a great offensive player. So, you're not sure."

Greinke plays catch for first time since injury

PHOENIX -- Right-hander Zack Greinke was formally placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, but there was good news from manager Ron Roenicke: Greinke played catch on Friday for the first time since he was shut down with a cracked left rib.

That game of catch marked a significant step for the Brewers' top offseason acquisition, who was expected all along to open the season on the DL after he injured himself early in camp playing basketball. Greinke is still a long way from being game-ready, but that he was cleared to resume throwing means Greinke is at least pain-free.

"He came out of it great," Roenicke said.

Until Greinke throws from a bullpen mound, it is difficult to project how much regular-season time he will miss. Barring rainouts, the Brewers could get by with four starters in April, except for April 6, 16 and 26.

Greinke's stint on the DL was backdated to March 22. The same goes for relievers Manny Parra and LaTroy Hawkins, who joined Greinke on the Opening Day DL, as expected. The left-hander Parra has a facet joint injury in his right back, and right-hander Hawkins has been on a conservative schedule as he returns from last season's shoulder surgery. Parra was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Saturday, and Hawkins pitched 1 1/3 innings in a Minor League game. Both are eligible for reinstatement from the DL beginning April 6. Before the team's March 31 season opener, right fielder Corey Hart (rib cage) and catcher Jonathan Lucroy (finger) are also expected to go on the DL.

Axford finding intensity level just in time

PHOENIX -- After a shaky start to Spring Training, Brewers closer John Axford appears back on track as he's set to begin his first full season as a Major League closer.

Axford worked around an error for his first Spring Training save in Friday's win over the Indians, then came back Saturday and worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless ninth inning in the Brewers' 2-1, 10-inning win over the Mariners. It marked his first back-to-back outings this spring.

Axford is expected to make one last appearance Monday or Tuesday before the start of the regular season.

"The intensity level is there, and I can feel it on the mound," Axford said. "Before, physically I felt great, and mentally I felt great. It was just the intensity level I was at last year, I just couldn't bring it back. Today, it felt great to be in that moment."

Axford grew used to high-intensity situations last season, when he converted 24 of 27 saves as Trevor Hoffman's fill-in, including nine saves of more than three outs. Only the Giants' Brian Wilson had more multi-inning saves.

But this spring started slowly for Axford, who struggled particularly with command. He's recovered since a March 15 outing against the Indians in which he didn't retire any of the five hitters he faced, and has now logged four consecutive scoreless Cactus League innings.

Axford has calmed manager Ron Roenicke's concern, but insists he was never concerned himself.

"I was never worried about it before, because I knew physically I felt great, and mentally I wasn't over-thinking," Axford said. "I wasn't panicking, thinking I had to work on something. I knew it would come eventually."

All that's left to settle this spring is his entry music. Axford has been letting Facebook friends vote for the song accompanying his trot from the bullpen, and it's down to a final four. He said voting would continue at www.Facebook.com/JohnAxford at least through Tuesday, when the Brewers break camp.

Last call

Third baseman Casey McGehee was in the original lineup posted Saturday morning, then removed to give him one more day to rest his bruised right knee. McGehee was struck on the kneecap by a pitch on Thursday but avoided serious injury. He should start Sunday against the White Sox. "There's no reason to push him too hard," Roenicke said ... Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, recovering quickly from a fractured right pinkie, could take batting practice as early as Sunday, and has another visit with hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan on Monday. Sheridan could clear Milwaukee's No. 1 catcher to begin playing Minor League games. ... Right fielder Corey Hart reported more progress with his left rib-cage strain. He's been taking fly balls in the outfield, and the last step is resuming full batting practice. "Everything is moving forward," Hart said. ... Right-hander Shaun Marcum remains on track to start Monday's split-squad game at home against the Padres and then the team's second game of the regular season on April 2. Marcum skipped his last start because of a stiff shoulder.