MILWAUKEE -- When right-hander Shaun Marcum returns to a Major League mound this weekend for the first time in more than two months, he will not just be pitching for the Brewers.
"I'm playing for 29 other teams right now," said Marcum, a free agent after the season. "I have to get a job next year, so I have to go out there and show them I'm healthy, see what happens."
Marcum was charging toward free agency -- 5-3 with a 3.39 ERA through his first 13 starts -- before he felt stiffness in his surgically repaired right elbow after a June 14 outing at Kansas City. He thought he would miss one start and instead missed more than two months, finally returning to action in recent weeks with three Minor League rehabilitation starts for Class A Wisconsin.
After allowing one run on four hits in six innings on Monday, Marcum was deemed ready to return. He will pitch either Saturday or Sunday at Pittsburgh -- as of Tuesday afternoon, manager Ron Roenicke was not ready to make the plan public.
Marcum said he would defer to Roenicke's wishes, just as he did in agreeing to one last start at Wisconsin. Marcum threw 50 of his 71 pitches for strikes on Monday, so he should be able to go over the 90-pitch mark in his return to Milwaukee.
"That was fine," Marcum said. "It made more sense after we talked about it, to come back here without a pitch count, and the other team knowing I had a pitch count, taking a lot of pitches and taxing the bullpen."
Marcum is earning $7.725 million in 2012 and the Brewers have made no moves to retain him beyond this season. He will be a free agent for the first time.
"I know if I go out and pitch, numbers speak for themselves, track record speaks for itself," Marcum said. "I'll be able to find a job with somebody. [Free agency] will definitely be different. I know guys say that's what you play for, but usually you play to win games, be happy and comfortable and be somewhere you have a chance to go to the postseason. Those are the main things."
Hart willing to move positions to stay in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- The longest-tenured player in the Brewers organization instructed his agent to pass a message to the club's front office before the non-waiver Trade Deadline: He wants to stay, no matter what position he plays.
Corey Hart asked agent Jeff Berry to communicate to general manager Doug Melvin that Hart was open to a permanent switch to first base, a position he adopted out of need this season, or a move back to right field, his position on Opening Day. Hart hoped that olive branch might spur discussions about an extension beyond his current contract, which expires after 2013.
"Hopefully, it will overlap and start something," Hart said. "I've never been in this position, so I don't know what their plan is. They could obviously trade me in the offseason, but I want to stay around. Hopefully, they want me to stay around for more than next year."
Hart has made a smooth transition to first base, his position when the Brewers drafted him in the 11th round in 2000, but one he had not played regularly since 2002. The Brewers had a need after first baseman Prince Fielder departed via free agency and Fielder's replacement, Mat Gamel, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Tuesday marked Hart's 68th start this season at first base.
"It's still a work in progress. I still catch myself on certain plays saying, 'I should have done this,'" Hart said. "It hasn't happened a lot. I've actually lost 10 pounds since going over there. I was so nervous, basically, so focused on every play -- I was squat, squat, squat, running back and forth. I've adapted to it. I think I was so worried about being on time, being in the right spot."
Now he feels comfortable there. Manager Ron Roenicke is already on record as saying he would like to keep Hart at first base in 2013, but the plan will depend on what opportunities meet the Brewers in offseason trades or free agency.
Hart, who entered Tuesday batting .267 with 23 home runs and 64 RBIs, will earn $10 million in 2013, the final season of a three-year extension he initiated before the 2010 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Two years later, he is again going public with his desire to stay.
"I really like it here," Hart said. "My family likes it, I like it, I've always been here. I would definitely like to stay."
Hart conceded that negotiations, if they ensue, would be a matter for the offseason.
"At least they know, and if they come back [with an offer], they come back," Hart said.
Roenicke reinstates Axford as closer
MILWAUKEE -- John Axford had no arguments when he was removed from his closer's role after blowing his sixth save of the season on July 16. More than a month later, though, the 29-year-old Brewers right-hander told manager Ron Roenicke that he wants his job back."It was my approach," Axford said of a conversation that came during the early portion of last weekend's series against the Phillies. "I think just based on some of the chaos and instability that's been happening down there, I wanted to make sure I took a leadership role and not only accepted some of that chaos and instability was because of me in the first place, but I wanted to re-establish it and make sure that things were going to be straight down there again."
On Tuesday, Roenicke obliged to Axford's request. The Brewers entered the ninth inning leading 5-0, but after Manny Parra and Jim Henderson combined for two outs and two runs, Roenicke brought in his once-dominant closer for the last out. It was a deliberate move to give Axford the save, he said.
"This is a guy we would obviously like to be in that closer role," Roenicke said. "And the reason we took him out of it is to try and do what's best for him to get back into that role. I think when he was out of it, I think he pitched well enough to allow us the confidence that we think we can put him back in there now."
In 15 games since being he was officially removed as the closer, Axford has two wins and three saves to go with a 4.73 ERA. Tuesday marked his first save since Aug. 6, but Axford said he hopes to get the ball more often in the ninth inning the rest of the way. If he continues to pitch well, Roenicke has no problem with that.
"I'm not saying I'm going to do that every time," Roenicke said. "But I think when everything matches up well, I think he'll be in there. I'm sure Henderson will have his chances, and hopefully we have a lot of chances here as the season goes on."
Fiers, Rogers to pitch on -- for now
MILWAUKEE -- Young Brewers right-handers Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers will pitch on, manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday.
The Brewers are keeping a close eye on both pitchers' workloads. Fiers, 27, pitched 128 innings during the 2011 season combined in the Minors and Majors, and has already thrown 142 innings this year between Triple-A Nashville and the Brewers. Rogers, 26, was limited to 44 1/3 innings last season by injuries and a suspension, and has thrown 124 innings this year.
Both could still be shut down before the end of the season to protect their valuable arms, but that decision is not imminent, Roenicke indicated. The goal is extending both pitchers as far as possible without hurting their arms, so they are ready to pitch a full Major League season in 2013.
"What we have planned out right now, these guys will go for a while," Roenicke said. "Then, in two to three weeks, we'll look at this again and see where we are."
The Brewers generally like to keep their pitchers within 20-30 percent of the previous season's innings count. A 30-percent bump would limit Fiers to 166-167 innings this season.
Rogers' case is more complicated due to his missed time in 2011. So how do the Brewers make their judgment?
"It's stuff," Roenicke said. "His stuff is still good."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.