PHOENIX -- Marco Estrada's first start of the spring earned him a second look.
Estrada, a minor leaguer called across the complex to start for Milwaukee, limited San Diego to three hits over 4 1/3 innings and the Brewers beat the Padres 7-0 Tuesday.Estrada is one of a handful of players auditioning for Zack Greinke's spot in the rotation while the former AL Cy Young winner recovers from a fractured rib.Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the right-hander's audition was the best he'd seen to date."We know he can throw strikes," Roenicke said. "And he's appeared in a couple of games so he shouldn't freak out."Last season, Estrada pitched in relief against Minnesota and then was asked to come back the next day and start. Those two outings, however, started a physical decline that ended with a small tear in his rotator cuff."They kept asking if I could (pitch) and of course I said yes," Estrada said inside the Brewers' minor league clubhouse after the game. "I tried to do my job but my arm slowly wore down and I got hurt."Though relegated to the minor league fields, Estrada has been keeping tabs on Greinke's progress as well as other rotation-related news to see if he might crack the roster."I'm trying not to think too much," Estrada said. "I just keep my head down and keep working. If it happens, I'll be happiest guy in the world. If not, I'll keep working hard."Padres starter Clayton Richard is locked in as the team's No. 2 starter after throwing a team-high 201 2/3 innings last season in 33 starts. But against the Brewers, it was Richard who looked like someone working for a roster spot.Richard gave up seven runs and 10 hits in only 4 2/3 innings."You never want to have an outing like this," Richard said, "but sometimes it's good to have one because when having these big innings is just as important as getting up and down. What it does, you're able to learn something from it, progress and adjust."Pat Neshek, whom the Padres claimed off waivers Sunday from the Minnesota Twins, threw one inning and struck out two with what Padres manager Bud Black described as a "funky" windup."I think history has proven there's a place for that type of pitcher," Black said. "But it's still a matter of locating pitches no matter how deceptive you are."Ryan Braun doubled and singled for the Brewers. George Kottaras added three hits.
Before the game, the Brewers optioned 3B Mat Gamel to Triple-A Nashville. Gamel, slowed this spring by a strained ribcage muscle, will report to the team's minor league camp Wednesday to learn how to play first base. Gamel appeared at first for Milwaukee on Sunday. ... The Brewers' medical staff is limiting the activity of C Jonathan Lucroy after he had a pin removed from his broken right pinkie on Monday. Originally, Lucroy was going to hit but not catch in some minor league games this week. "The doctor doesn't want to take that chance," Roenicke said. ... Brewers 1B Prince Fielder stayed home with a sinus infection.