PHOENIX -- Some day, Johnny Hellweg could develop into a 6-foot-9, flame-throwing reliever. But for now, the Brewers want to see if he can be a 6-foot-9, flame-throwing starter.

The team on Monday optioned right-handers Hellweg and Tyler Thornburg to Triple-A Nashville so they can stretch out to begin the season in that club's starting rotation.

Thornburg, No. 2 on MLB.com's list of the top 20 Brewers prospects, was expected all along to be a starter. But Hellweg, No. 4 on that list, came to camp as an option for the Major League bullpen.

"We still think he has a very good chance to be a real good Major League starter," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "If we didn't think that way, we would have kept him in camp because he would have had a chance to make the team out of the bullpen.

"But I like him. We all like him. I think by doing this, it helps him in getting him stretched out, and more importantly in getting on a routine where he knows when he's going to pitch."

Hellweg, 24, was acquired last July in Brewers-Angels trade for Zack Greinke. After the trade, Hellweg made two starts and five relief appearances for Double-A Huntsville. He had a 4.15 ERA and seven strikeouts in 8 2/3 Cactus League innings.

"I think he has a lot of confidence going into his season from what he did here," Roenicke said.

Thornburg, also 24, was nudged out by the return of Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada from the World Baseball Classic. Thornburg was originally scheduled to start Wednesday night against the D-backs; now Gallardo will pitch that game instead.

Back from Classic, Green eyes spot with Brewers

PHOENIX -- Infielder Taylor Green made a bittersweet return to Maryvale Baseball Park on Monday, disappointed his Team Canada had been eliminated from the World Baseball Classic but eager to resume his bid for a Brewers roster spot.

"My situation is different from some other guys. I'm fighting for a spot," said Green, who could be a backup at first, second and third base, and might even play the outfield this spring. "I was really debating whether I should go in the first place, just because of that. Obviously, I wanted to go as far as we could in the tournament, for the country and everything like that, but on a personal level it's good to be back here."

Green said he would play in the Classic again in four years if asked.

"The atmosphere was big, every play mattered," Green said. "Yesterday [against Team USA] was pretty fun for the most part there. They got us in the end."

Relievers John Axford and Jim Henderson also rejoined the Brewers on Monday, and with Green and Team Mexico's Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada, underwent exit physicals required by the rules of the Classic.

Teams Canada and Mexico brawled during Canada's win on Saturday, a skirmish that began after Mexico third baseman Luis Cruz, a former Brewers farmhand, ordered his pitcher to plunk a Canada hitter. Green said he bore no ill-will to his former teammate.

"Top-notch guy," Green said. "I like him. I still like him."

Five Brewers players moved on to the second round of the Classic: Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy of the U.S., Martin Maldonado and Hiram Burgos of Puerto Rico and Minor Leaguer Hainley Statia of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Aramis tests improving right knee on basepaths

PHOENIX -- Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is pain-free and hoped to remain so Monday, when he ran his sprained right knee through its toughest test yet.

"Today, I'm going to move around a little bit more," Ramirez said before his morning workout. "Take grounders to the sides and run the bases, so I'll have a little bit better idea today where I am."

Ramirez, who was injured sliding into second base on March 2, took batting practice and fielded grounders on Sunday with no ill effects. He planned to add lateral movement to his field work on Monday, fielding and running on a back field at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Manager Ron Roenicke said it is unlikely Ramirez will return before Thursday's off-day.

"He's wanting to push it and get back out there," Roenicke said. "But we still have to go slowly. The running the bases will be probably the last thing he needs to do. He needs to be able to cut corners running. The swinging, there is no issues whatsoever."

Said Ramirez: "Everything is going good. I don't feel any pain right now, so I'm going to do some more stuff today and see how it feels."

Last call

• Yovani Gallardo will slide back into the Brewers' rotation on Wednesday night against the D-backs, taking Tyler Thornburg's place. Marco Estrada was tentatively scheduled to pitch the next day in a Minor League game because the big league club is off.