Brewers reliever Chris Perez puts up a battle

Chris Perez is getting a bit closer to learning his fate.

The veteran reliever, invited to the Milwaukee Brewers' spring camp as a nonroster player, must be told by March 31 if he is being placed on the 40-man roster, assigned to Class AAA Colorado Springs or getting released.

With more relievers in camp than available spots, it doesn't seem to be a good year to make the staff as a nonroster player. But Perez, 29, has plugged away, pitching better with each of his five exhibition outings.

"This year has been a little different because I don't have a spot," Perez said Wednesday. "I'm still taking the same approach. Regardless, I have to get ready for the season. It doesn't matter where it's at. Each time out, I'm feeling a little better, a little sharper, a little crisper."

With a scoreless inning Monday in a 6-4 victory over San Diego, Perez lowered his spring earned run average to 3.38 (two earned runs in 51/3 innings). He has allowed four hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

The bullpen picture remains a bit murky until either Jim Henderson or Tyler Thornburg, or both, are deemed ready or not after returning from injuries. Relievers who appear to have spots locked up are Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Neal Cotts and Brandon Kintzler.

If those six indeed have spots, there would be just one opening. Beyond Henderson and Perez, Rob Wooten has big-league experience that puts him in the picture. If the Brewers keep Perez, he gets a $1.5 million base salary. If they assign him to Colorado Springs, he qualifies for a $100,000 retention bonus as a player with at least five years in the majors.

"It's up to them," Perez said. "They could offer me to other teams before sending me to Triple-A but that would just be a courtesy. They don't have to.

"I imagine they'll keep the normal seven (relievers). I can't worry about that. Other guys have options. So, they have moving parts....I have a track record so it's not like it's all about this spring.

"I've made some adjustments since last year with my mechanics, and I'm working on improving that. I'm healthy and ready to go."

Manager Ron Roenicke isn't sure how many openings there are until everything shakes out with Henderson and Thornburg.

"I think his stuff is good," Roenicke said of Perez. "It's a live fastball; it's got sink on it. The slider has been really inconsistent but we've seen some good ones. It's a matter of him just being more consistent with what he's doing.

"If he shows he can do that, he's going to get out big-league hitters. His stuff really plays. (Being a nonroster player) doesn't help but we're hoping we take our best guys."

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