Kelvim Escobar's comeback attempt with the Milwaukee Brewers is over before it started.
The team gave the right-handed reliever his unconditional release Sunday morning, one week after he made his lone appearance for the team.
Escobar lasted just two-thirds of an inning in that outing before experiencing control problems stemming from weakness in his throwing hand.
Escobar was diagnosed with a pinched nerve but had thrown just one bullpen session in the interim.
Well-stocked with young relievers and with Escobar facing long odds of making the opening-day roster, the decision was made after a couple days of talks between the Brewers and Escobar's agent to give the 36-year-old his release.
"(Assistant general manager) Gord (Ash) has been talking to his agent, who's in town, and trying to figure out what's the best way to do it with 'Escy' " manager Ron Roenicke said. "If we waited until the end, it's not necessarily fair to him if we don't think he's going to make our team.
"So this allows him to go out a little earlier to try to hook on with somebody and to try and get a better shot at making a club. It's tough for us because of the way we feel about him, the way I feel about him and Gord's the same way, with the history he's had with him.
"He's a quality person, he's had a great career and he's busted his tail to try to come back after a couple years off with an injury. You always feel for guys like that."
Escobar, who has pitched in just one major-league game since 2007 because of multiple shoulder injuries, was realistic about the situation.
"I understand the business side -- I've been around this game for a long time," he said. "First of all, there's a lot of good, young arms here. Good, young pitching that came to camp and is throwing the ball well.
"At the same time, they didn't like how my shoulder looked in the MRI. It seemed like everything had to be perfect for me to make this team. Even if I was pitching, it was going to be tough.
"My hand, that setback, didn't help. Bad timing. I'm not on the 40-man roster. That made things harder."
Escobar said that even though he won't be with the Brewers, he isn't giving up on his dream of making it back to the big leagues.
"I did a lot to get to this point," he said. "It took me two years. Just to be here and have a uniform says a lot for me, because I never thought I'd throw a ball again after everything I went through with my shoulder.
"I'm not going to give up. I'm going to continue to work hard and see where my arm is. Mexico is going to be a choice for me to keep working and pitch as a starter. See how my arm responds after a lot of pitching.
"I have to be honest with myself -- (teams) want to see me pitching. They don't want to take a risk. The MRI of my shoulder doesn't look too good, so I have to pitch and show teams that I'm capable of doing it again."
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez took batting practice Sunday, a step in the right direction as he continues his comeback from a sprained left knee.
Ramirez sprained the knee sliding into second base while hustling for a double in a Cactus League game March 2.
An MRI the next day revealed a sprain, and Ramirez said then he expected to miss one to two weeks while recovering.
"BP went real well. Ground balls went well," Roenicke said. "He's coming along pretty fast. He'll do the same tomorrow and maybe add a little bit."
In Ramirez's absence, the Brewers have been using a number of players at third. Alex Gonzalez got the start there Sunday.
Infielder Jeff Bianchi was supposed to be the starting shortstop for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, but a left groin strain suffered in a Cactus League game with the Brewers forced him to withdraw.
He's been in Maryvale since, rehabilitating the injury while watching Team Italy upset Team Canada and Team Mexico to become one of two teams from Pool D in Phoenix to advance to the next round in Miami.
"It's awesome and exciting to see them winning and advancing to the second round," he said. "At the same time, watching the game and following them, part of me would have liked to have been there to be a part of it. But it is what it is. I've just got to continue to get better here -- that's the important thing.
"But it is bittersweet."
Bianchi said he texted congratulations to Italy's manager, Marco Mazzieri, after it became official Italy had advanced. Bianchi and his wife, Nicole, watched the Italy-USA game Saturday night from a local restaurant.
He'll continue to watch Italy as it plays in Miami, but with a number of utility men in camp Bianchi knows a return to health and the field is his top priority.
"My focus is on getting better and getting back on the field with the Brewers and trying to make the club," he said.
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