Hart cleared to join big-league Crew

Most of the Brewers’ regulars took Monday off but will return to action Tuesday and Wednesday, when the team caps Spring Training with a pair of Chase Field exhibitions againbst the D-backs.

“Along with probably our right fielder [Corey] Hart,” manager Ron Roencike said.

Hart received medical clearance Monday to re-join the Brewers’ big leaguers. He is scheduled for seven innings on Tuesday night, seven more on Wednesday afternoon, and, barring a setback with his surgically-repaired right knee, will be in right field when the Brewers start the regular season on Friday against the Cardinals.

Having Hart will be a boost for the Brewers, who are counting on him to bat fifth this season. That is a key spot in the batting order considering the Brewers have a new cleanup hitter, Aramis Ramirez, who is tasked with replacing some of the production lost when Prince Fielder left via free agency.

Hart played Wednesday-Sunday in Minor League games, preserving the option of a backdated stint on the 15-day disabled list. The Brewers would forfeit that option if Hart appears in the Cactus League, a very strong indication they are convinced he is ready for Opening Day.

“He’s ready. He’s actually pretty excited about it,” Roenicke said. “Today, he woke up and came in and feels great.”

Hart will be four weeks post-op on Tuesday. He had surgery March 6 to repair two cartilage tears in his right knee, and the Brewers predicted a 3-5 week rehabilitation. Using that timeframe, Hart is coming in right on schedule.

“He pushed it,” Roenicke said. “He got out there and got after it with the idea he would like to be ready for Opening Day. He would have been OK if we thought it was better as far as going to Triple-A for a few days, but he’s pretty happy about [breaking camp in the Major Leagues]. Anytime you work hard, you want things to go well, and I think this went well.”

With Shaun Marcum (early-camp shoulder stiffness) slated to pitch Wednesday’s spring finale against Arizona, the Brewers could begin the season at full-strength. That’s a big change from last year, when Hart, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, starter Zack Greinke and relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Manny Parra all began the season on the disabled list.

Roenicke said circumstances would dictate Hart’s playing time in the early part of April.


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