Brewers’ Corey Hart likely out until mid-July

The target date for Corey Hart’s return from offseason knee surgery keeps getting pushed back, delaying the return of Milwaukee’s starting first baseman.

While Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said last week Hart was at least three weeks away from returning to the Brewers, general manager Doug Melvin was less optimistic on his weekly radio show on 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee.

The Brewers are now hoping to have the former All-Star back after the All-Star break. Milwaukee returns from the break to host Miami on July 19.

“He’s taking batting practice, he’s making some strides,” Melvin told WTMJ on Thursday morning. “They’re small steps to get back. He’s working out every day. We don’t have a schedule. I don’t anticipate it this week or the next two weeks. We’d love to have him back after the All-Star break.”

Whenever Hart is ready to take the field, he’ll need almost the full allotment of 20 days on a minor league rehab assignment.

With Hart out, the Brewers have struggled to get much production out of their first basemen. After a hot start, Yuniesky Betancourt has cooled off significantly, while Alex Gonzalez and Juan Francisco haven’t hit. Milwaukee’s first basemen are 29th in baseball with a .183 batting average and are 27th in the league with just four home runs.

Hart, who had surgery in January to repair a small meniscus tear along with debriding the right knee joint surface, was originally given a timetable of late May.

After shifting from right field to first base, Hart hit .270 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI in 2012. He’s in the final year of a three-year contract, earning $10 million this season.

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