Hart improving with more consistent playing time

MILWAUKEE — After batting .172 with a .221 on-base percentage and 18 strikeouts in Spring Training, right fielder Corey Hart did not start for the Brewers on Opening Day. Seven weeks later, Hart has quietly become one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters.

 

Over the last 11 games, Hart is batting .295 (13-for-44) with six home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored, two doubles and a triple. With a week remaining in the month, Hart’s numbers in May have already eclipsed those of April in nearly every offensive category.

With six home runs this month, Hart has already doubled his April total of three homers.

“I’ve been trying to stay consistent, but for some reason lately the ball’s been getting in the air for me,” Hart said. “Sometimes I’ll find a swing that makes me hit the ball in the air a little farther than other times, but it kind of comes and goes. Right now the ones I hit good are going in the air, so I’ve been fortunate to have that streak go a bit longer than normal.”

For the season, Hart is batting .263 with nine home runs — which ties him with Casey McGehee for the team lead — and 23 RBIs, which puts him fourth on the team.

Over last weekend in Minneapolis, he hit home runs in each of the Brewers last two games against the Twins at Target Field, a ballpark that is near the bottom of the league in terms of home runs per game.

But with the way Hart was swinging the bat, his home runs would have been out of any park. His second homer, which came in the Brewers’ 4-3 win on Sunday, was the first to ever reach the third deck at Target Field.

At an estimated 440 feet, it was the longest home run hit in the short history of the ballpark.

Since sitting out the series opener against the Braves on May 10, Hart has started 13 straight games for the Brewers.

“Looking back at it, he didn’t start Opening Day,” manager Ken Macha said of Hart. “A big deal was made about that and that he didn’t have a very good Spring Training. He’s come out here and worked with Dale [Sveum] pretty hard and it’s nice to see the work paying off.”

To begin the season, Hart split time with veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds at right field in what, for the most part, amounted to a platoon. While Macha never wanted to call it such, Edmonds typically got the call against right-handed starters, while Hart mostly faced lefties.

The most surprising instance, though, was on Opening Day, when Edmonds got the start over Hart with righty Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound for the Rockies.

While Macha said Edmonds was starting because Jimenez fell into the category of “tough righty,” it was a surprising move with it being Opening Day and with Hart expected to be the club’s everyday right fielder.

Though he credits some of his success to the swing he’s had of late, Hart sees his more consistent playing time as the most important factor in his recent hot streak. Due to a handful of injuries to other outfielders, Hart has started far more of late than he had been early in the season.

“That was stupid, Spring Training doesn’t matter, but they decided it mattered this year for some reason,” Hart said of his preseason slump. “I’m just working to try to turn their minds around. Hopefully I can keep playing well so I can stay in the lineup.

“Coming into this season I think there was a question mark about how long I’d be in Milwaukee. But I want to be here, so hopefully they see me as an everyday guy again.”

– Jordan Schelling, Associate Reporter

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