MINNEAPOLIS – Corey Hart will be absent from the Brewers’ lineup on Saturday with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.
In March, Hart underwent a procedure to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, but he recovered in time to play in the team’s opening game against the Cardinals on April 6. Now, two and a half months later, soreness has returned, but it may just be the result of a defensive switch.
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Since June 3, Hart has only played once in right field, on June 10. He’s been spending most of his time at first base after Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers in the offseason and Mat Gamel suffered an ACL tear on May 1. Although the Brewers drafted Hart as a first baseman, he moved to third base and then right field before splitting time between the outfield and first base this season.
Hart’s mechanics in the field have naturally changed since the increased time at first base, and the necessary diving for and blocking balls has taken its toll on his knees. Manager Ron Roenicke said that initially, he’d planned to play Hart at designated hitter on Saturday, but he changed his mind this morning.
“It’s not bad,” Roenicke said of the soreness. “He, last night, when we left, he was going to play. We talked, and he was going to play. I talked to him yesterday, that he’d be DHing today.”
The knee was still swollen this morning, but Roenicke said that there’s no damage, just inflammation. Hart is not in pain when he stretches to catch and field the ball, Roenicke said, and that’s the pain that would likely be caused by lingering meniscus issues.
Despite Saturday’s soreness, Roenicke isn’t regretting his decision to start Hart at first base in 15 games this season. Despite never playing the position in the major leagues, not even in spring training this year, Hart has not committed an error there all season. Roenicke had heard that Hart had been a good first baseman in the minor leagues, but he’s still surprised at how fast the transition has been.
“If it was a new position to him, he wouldn’t be able to do this this fast,” Roenicke said. “But because he’s had that experience here before, he’s picking it up fast.”
It’s too early to say whether Hart’s move to first will be a permanent solution for the franchise. He’s under contract through 2013, so the team would have time to commit to the transition if it so chose.
“I don’t want to say that he wouldn’t be,” Roenicke said. “I don’t want to say that, but we’re not at the point where I’ve talked to Doug (Melvin) enough to where we’re going say, ‘Hey, you know something. For the next few years, this could be our guy.'”
With Hart out of the lineup, Taylor Green will replace him at first base. That’s one fewer player who’s less than 100 percent on the field for the Brewers in this injury-plagued season. The change might alter the perception that the Brewers aren’t playing hard, which Roenicke acknowledged, when in reality they’re simply doing the most they can with their current health situation.