By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Mar 19, 2008 at 5:16 AM

PHOENIX -- The Brewers have a high priority on improving their defense during spring training.

With less than two weeks remaining before opening day, they still have work to do.

The Brewers had two straight multi-error games over the weekend and have committed 25 errors in 22 games. Manager Ned Yost, who set improving the defense as a top priority, is not overly concerned about the recent flubs.

"It's Spring Training and infields are hard," Yost said after a recent victory.

"They're working really hard and they're doing a lot of extra work. It's hard to play down here. Everybody has trouble playing down here."

Second baseman Rickie Weeks leads the Brewers with five errors. Weeks, Prince Fielder and Bill Hall are doing extra drill work under the guidance of third base coach Dale Sveum.

Ryan Braun, who has been slowed lately with a sore Achilles tendon, has worked out in left field with coach Ed Sedar.

"The guys are working hard on defense and will be better," Yost said. "If you improve your defense, you improve in other areas. Pitching should improve if the defense gets better. You can't afford to give guys extra outs at this level.

"That WILL be the difference," the manager added. "That is the difference. There's no 'might be' the difference. That will be the difference. We have everything we need to be successful. We need to play defense.

"We can score runs, we can hit, we can hit with power, we can pitch, we've got a good bullpen ... we need to play defense."

Cameron requests waiver: Veteran outfielder Mike Cameron can't play the first 25 games of the season because of previous violations of the MLB substance use rules, but he has requested a waiver of those rules for this season.

Cameron says he needs to use vitamin supplements for possible post-concussion problems that stem back to a 2005 collision, when he was with the Mets.

"I'm fine physically," Cameron told USA Today recently. "But mentally, I'm not so sure. It's just little things -- lapses here and there. I may be fine, but it can't hurt. I just want to find out for sure and whether I need anything to help me."

Both Cameron and the Brewers have limited their statements on the matter. It is not known if the waiver will be granted before Cameron can play for the Brewers.

Pitching battles: The battle for the starting rotation continues. Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva and Claudio Vargas each made strong bids for the fourth and fifth spots through the weekend. They had combined for a 1.42 ERA while holding opponents to a .175 combined average.

Parra, who had given up one earned run in 14 innings, is scheduled to pitch Thursday against the Royals. Villanueva gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings against the White Sox Monday and saw his ERA rise to 2.57. Vargas will pitch later in the week.

Chris Capuano and Dave Bush are the other two pitchers vying for the last two spots in the rotation. Capuano might have been virtually eliminated from the race Monday when he left a "B" game against the Mariners in the fourth inning with soreness in his left elbow. Capuano is resting the elbow before team doctor William Raasch can examine it this weekend.

Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan and Yovani Gallardo, who is recovering from knee surgery, are expected to hold down the first three slots in the rotation.

Yost said that the Brewers coaches and front office will convene Thursday to discuss some upcoming roster decisions, which will influence the makeup of the bullpen. General manager Doug Melvin would prefer to use 12 pitchers in order to keep an extra position player. Yost may have other ideas.

"If it gets to be where I believe we need to protect a guy or do it for a roster reason, I'll fight for 13 (pitchers rather than 12)," he said. "I haven't even thought about it yet. I'll have to wait and see. It's very smoky and very murky right now, and I don't want to strain to see through it. I'm letting it settle."

Laying the groundwork: The game results don't really count, but Yost is pleased that his squad took a 14-7-1 record into the only scheduled day off this spring. "It doesn't count down here, but you don't mind building a winning approach," Yost said.

I-94 / I-10 rivalries: The Brewers and White Sox played to a 4-4 tie in 10 innings Monday afternoon. The Brewers have beaten the Cubs in two meetings thus far this season.

Milwaukee will play the last two Cactus League games against the Cubs and White Sox before heading north for two exhibition games against Kansas City at Miller Park and the regular season opener March 31 at Wrigley Field.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.