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03/30/09 5:00 PM ET

Brewers place Hoffman on 15-day DL

PHOENIX -- A few minutes after Trevor Hoffman told reporters that he was resigned to beginning the season on the disabled list, the Brewers formally made the move.

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Hoffman was placed on the 15-day DL on Monday, retroactive to March 27, with a strained oblique muscle on the right side of his ribcage. He will miss at least the first four games of the regular season.

"Basically, that's all that's left," Hoffman said of his move to the DL. "You're talking about not having been off the mound in two weeks, and it would be silly to try to rush it [for Opening Day]."

The roster move came a day after Hoffman played catch with head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger for the first time since March 20. After that, his recovery plateaued, and for more than a week, Hoffman was restricted from throwing entirely.

On Monday morning, he felt "not too bad." The team's athletic training staff was devising a schedule for Hoffman to return to the mound, assistant general manager Gord Ash said, but in the roster move Monday club officials hoped to relieve some of the pressure on Hoffman to make a speedy comeback.

Ash, general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ken Macha sat down with Hoffman on Monday morning.

"He's feeling much better, much improved," Ash said. "He'll just progress as he can. We didn't want him to feel like he was in the 'hurry up' mode to Opening Day."

Hoffman was of the same mindset.

"You don't want to rush it and set things back," Hoffman said. "Just because we're starting to see some progress, you don't want to jump on it to the point you set yourself back two weeks and lose the [progress].

"Two weeks in the middle of the season is going to feel a heck of a lot longer than the last two weeks of Spring Training, even though this has been frustrating. It would be difficult to watch games go by."

Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 554 saves, Hoffman inked a $6 million, one-year contract in January to replace Brewers closer Salomon Torres, who turned down $3.75 million and instead retired to focus on his family and his faith.

Part of the allure of Hoffman was his durability, even at age 41. Before Monday, he had been on the disabled list only once in his 16-year Major League career. Hoffman missed most of the 2003 season with a right shoulder injury that required surgery.

His current setback is far less severe. But it might be more frustrating.

"That [the shoulder] was more of a specific trauma and I felt something immediate," Hoffman said. "You try and rehab it, it doesn't work, so you go and get surgery and fix it and the ball gets put in your court.

"This ... you're not 'blown out,' it's a mild strain. It's minor. But because of where it's at and because it affects so much of what you do other than just throwing, you have to shut down your normal activity."

He made a point of commending the team's athletic training staff, which has dealt with a rash of ribcage injuries this spring.

"I know they are getting a lot of heat because of it, as a staff," Hoffman said. "That's part of the frustration, because I know how hard Roger has been working with me. I know that CJ [strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Joyner] has done his due diligence with the workout regimen that we put forth as far as the conditioning aspect. People want to point the finger at what we have or have not done, but it seems like it's cyclical, where you go through certain things in spring. It seems to be the oblique this year."

Hoffman's assignment to the disabled list means that right-handers Mark DiFelice and Jorge Julio are both likely to make the Opening Day roster. Another right-hander, Carlos Villanueva, is likely to serve as Milwaukee's closer while Hoffman is down.

"I think the main thing is to make sure that when we get him back off [the DL], he's ready to go for an extended period of time," Macha said.

The Brewers are likely to send Hoffman for a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, a stint that could delay his return to Milwaukee past the end of his time on the DL. Both Triple-A Nashville and Class A Wisconsin -- the two most likely destinations for Hoffman -- do not open the season until April 9. Nashville will be at home and Wisconsin will be on the road in Davenport, Iowa.

Until then, Hoffman will remain with the team under Caplinger's supervision.

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