MILWAUKEE — Down six games in the NL wildcard with less than a month’s worth of action remaining, any absence from the Milwaukee Brewers’ recently stellar lineup can make a significant difference in the playoff race.
So after first baseman and No. 5 hitter Corey Hart left Sunday’s game against the Cardinals with an injury to the arch in his left foot after planting awkwardly around second base, there was definitely some concern. That concern only multiplied when Hart was left out of Monday’s lineup.
And before Monday’s game Brewers manager Ron Roenicke couldn’t relieve any of that anxiety, as Hart’s status remains in question. Hart will be examined by team doctor William Raasch sometime on Monday, and the Brewers should know more following that meeting.
“Not sure where we are with him,” Roenicke said. “He’s not limping as bad today, but it’s still there. I’m hoping it’s not very long.
“The lineup really changes (without him). You see today, we have to put Rickie (Weeks) at fifth and put (Carlos Gomez) at second, which that’s fine, but you have to change it. If I don’t have Corey there . . . it makes a big difference.
With the kind of injury that Hart sustained — an injury that he’s never experienced before, Hart said last night — it’s hard to judge how serious the injury is by what the player says. Hart said on Sunday and reaffirmed on Monday that he doesn’t expect the injury to hold him for more than a few games.
But Roenicke was more cautious with his estimations.
“Yesterday when we took him out of the game, he was limping, but he didn’t think it was very bad,” Roenicke said. “I’ve had players tell me that with ankles and all of a sudden, you’re looking at a week. I’m a little cautious there. I don’t know where he’s at.”
There was some good news on Monday’s lineup card for the Brewers though, as left fielder Ryan Braun returned to action after leaving Sunday’s game with a nagging wrist problem.
Roenicke said that Braun’s wrist was still a little sore, but the Brewers outfielder said it’s something he’s been dealing with for a while.
“It’s been a little bit,” Braun said. “I’m all right though.”
Leadoff power: Two outs were on the board in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday when right fielder Norichika Aoki approached the plate in St. Louis with one man on, the Brewers down by two runs.
Aoki’s count soon crept up to two strikes, as the Brewers were one strike away from losing the series finale. But what happened next, very few would have expected. Aoki, who had just seven home runs on the year at the time, slammed a two-run line drive blast out of the park, displaying an unforeseen bit of power that briefly saved the Brewers from a loss.
The Japanese rookie outfielder has surprised plenty of people this season, taking over the leadoff spot in Milwaukee, but there was perhaps no bigger surprise than Aoki’s recent power spree, all of which has come in the clutch for the Brewers.
“It surprises me,” Roenicke said. “The reason it surprises me is that when we were in Miami, he hit a ball out to left center that hit at the warning track and against the wall, and I saw our big right-handers hitting balls in the same place. For him to do that, that’s impressive. He killed a ball to hit a home run there. Yesterday’s was a line drive out of a big ballpark . . . He slaps it around, he’ll chop it and beat out a hit, he’ll slap it over to third, he’ll slap it down the left field line, and then he turns on the ball and hits it like that. (Hitting coach) Jerry Narron and I talked about it: he’s a very tough guy to defend because he’ll hit both lines, he’ll drive the ball in the gaps, and he’ll bloop it in front of you. That’s why he’s been a batting champ (in Japan) for so many years.”
Narveson update: Starting pitcher Chris Narveson was the first in a long line of season-ending injuries experienced this year by Brewers players — tearing his rotator cuff after two starts in mid-April — but he seems to be right on track to hopefully being one of the first to return from injury as well.
In fact, on Monday, Narveson said he was ahead of schedule with his rehab, having just played catch at 90 feet. He hopes to throw off the mound sooner rather than later.
“I’m a little ahead of schedule, but all injuries are unique,” Narveson said. “I’ve felt great. Things have been good. It’s been a good ride so far . . . and you don’t want to push it too hard.”
Narveson also addressed the breakout campaigns from young pitchers in the organization, many of which may challenge him for a spot in the rotation next season.
“(It makes you) a little bit (anxious to get back),” Narveson said, “but at the same time, you love the competition. We love to compete.”