MLB

Hart hopeful of returning to Brewers lineup early

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PHOENIX (AP)

(Eds: Updates throughout. With AP Photos.)By STEPHEN HAWKINSAP Sports Writer

Corey Hart has a big brace on his right knee and uses crutches to get around the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse.

After needing a teammate to carry his breakfast, Hart props the crutches against his locker and gingerly takes a couple of steps to the nearby table to sit down and eat.

While Hart is still slow getting around a month after surgery to repair a torn meniscus and other damage to the joint in his knee, he is hopeful a speedy recovery.

The optimistic Hart even thinks there's a chance to be back in the Brewers lineup by late April, a month earlier than expected.

''I'm always pretty positive and I think that's not unrealistic to shoot for that kind of early of a comeback,'' Hart said Thursday. ''I still want to beat the odds and come back as fast as I can. I think that April 20 is early, but I don't think it's unrealistic.''

If everything is good when Hart has an MRI in two weeks, he should then be able to start doing regular rehabilitation work. He's not doing anything now that involves bending his knee.

''Once that's done, then I can get on it and get going as fast as my body lets me,'' Hart said. ''It's boring right now, I've pretty much done everything I can do up until that point. My legs are strong as they can get without doing other stuff.''

Hart also had surgery on his right knee last spring to repair some damaged cartilage. He returned sooner than expected from that injury to be in the lineup on opening day, when he was still playing right field.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said team doctors have told him Hart would be out four months, which would mean late May.

''I'm going on that. If he comes back sooner than that, great,'' Roenicke said. ''He says he's a fast healer. I hope he is, but I think realistically we're looking somewhere later part of May.''

Still, he likes Hart's optimism.

''That's a good way to think. Maybe by having a positive reaction, maybe it does something chemically in you that heals you up faster,'' Roenicke said. ''I know it does make a difference how you go about things mentally in coming back from injuries and rehabbing, and if he's positive, he's probably going to work harder.''

Roenicke said candidates to play first until Hart returns include Alex Gonzalez, Hunter Morris, Bobby Crosby, Taylor Green and Sean Halton.

Hart is a .276 hitter in 945 career games, all with Milwaukee since his major league debut in 2004. He hit .270 with 30 home runs and 83 RBIs in 149 games last season, even while dealing with a left foot problem the last month of the season.

The Brewers last May moved Hart from right field to first base after Mat Gamel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee when he hit a wall chasing a foul popup. With Hart out this spring, Gamel was set in that position again until he tore his ACL again on the first day of full squad workouts last week.

Unable to do any work early in the offseason while recovering from what was a torn plantar fascia, Hart had swelling in his right knee after he was able to resume workouts. He thinks the problem with the knee might have been from sliding into a wall making a catch while playing right field last season.

''Every time I've had surgery, had to miss (time), I'm always positive, always optimistic,'' Hart said. ''But I believe that things happen, if God has a plan for me and if I need to miss spring to hang out with my family or tutor somebody else in this clubhouse, then that's what I'm here for. Obviously I want to get back fast and on the field.''

Tagged: Brewers, Corey Hart, Mat Gamel

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