MILWAUKEE -- Chris Capuano is back in the majors for the first time since 2007 after setbacks and arm surgeries cost him nearly 2½ years.
"I think I learned how much I like baseball. Going through the grind of the rehab and when you get back to actually playing, you get back to A ball and you play with some of those younger guys, it's just a different enthusiasm for the game," the lefty said before Milwaukee Brewers played the New York Mets on Saturday night.
"I think the longer I'm in the game, the more I appreciate it. It's funny, I like it more and more the more I get into it," he said.
Capuano missed the last two seasons after injuring his elbow in an exhibition game in March 2008 and later having a second ligament replacement surgery.
The 31-year-old Capuano won 18 games in 2005 and made the NL All-Star team in 2006. He started 5-0 in 2007, but lost his last 12 decisions that season. He last pitched Sept. 28, 2007.
The Brewers had a Saturday deadline to either call up him to the majors or let him become a free agent. He pitched four scoreless innings at Triple-A Nashville on Friday night and said he thought he'd be ready to pitch either Monday or Tuesday in Florida, making him available when Chris Narveson and Dave Bush are scheduled to make their next starts.
"I'm looking forward to that, to stepping back out there. My focus is very much looking forward at this point. I've been asked a lot of questions about the past couple of years," he said. "It's nice to have my focus looking forward, hopefully to some good things."
Manager Ken Macha declined to say what role Capuano would take on. He could move into a longer reliever's role or could take a rotation spot of a slew of Brewers starters who have struggled, including Manny Parra (1-3, 3.54 ERA entering Saturday night), Narveson (4-2, 5.53 ERA) or Bush (1-5, 5.05 ERA).
"We're trying to map out a plan for him. That's a work in progress," Macha said. "It's good to have him."
Capuano said he didn't have as many emotions about being back as he thought he would, but acknowledged he didn't sleep much on his flight from Nashville to Milwaukee.
"Being away for two years and then stepping back on that field and playing again, a lot of stuff feels new, feels new again and I think it's been a good thing for me," he said.
Milwaukee designated right-hander Claudio Vargas for assignment. Vargas was 1-0 with a 7.32 ERA in 17 appearances after he was stellar down the stretch in a midseason trade last year. Macha said it he was happy for Capuano, but it was a sad day because Vargas was gone.
"He's a terrific person," Macha said of Vargas. "If he wants to continue playing, I hope he winds up catching on with somebody."