Progress and uncertainty for Hart

Brewers officials said Thursday that Corey Hart is recovering well from his latest knee surgery and is expected to visit Miller Park next week during the season’s final homestand.

Will it be his final visit as a Brewer? That remains to be seen.

“We haven’t even begun to consider it yet,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said. “As we all know, there’s plenty of time.”

Hart, a free agent at the end of this season, will miss the entire year after undergoing surgery on his right knee in January and his left knee in July. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spoke with Hart this week and said his spirits are high, and, considering Hart’s positive progress so far, Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright confirmed that Hart should be baseball-ready in time for 2014 Spring Training.

“Back two weeks post-surgery for the left knee, he said, ‘The right knee feels to the point where I could play on it right now,’” Wright said. “Since we had to take time to do the left knee surgery, we’ve throttled back on some of the other things, just because you can’t do the full activity. I can tell you he is progressing very well.”

“He is repaired,” Ash said. “[Will he be] 100 percent? We hope so.”

First base has been the Brewers’ most tumultuous position all year, with Hart, Mat Gamel (ACL surgery) and Taylor Green (hip surgery) all lost before Opening Day. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez started there on Opening Day but was released in early June when the Brewers acquired power-hitting Juan Francisco, who has been at best too strikeout-prone and at worst a bust. Prospect Hunter Morris will be added to the 40-man roster this winter, did not distinguish himself enough at Triple-A Nashville to warrant a September call-up.

All of those issues could create an opening for the return of Hart, the Brewers’ longest-tenured player who was drafted as a first baseman in 2000, played most of his Milwaukee tenure as a right fielder but moved back to first base after Gamel was injured in 2012 and hit 30 home runs.

The Brewers are very unlikely to extend Hart a qualifying offer, because he would accept and earn upwards of $14 million in 2014. Instead, if the club is convinced of Hart’s health, the sides could discuss an incentive-laden deal with a smaller guarantee.

Asked about the need to figure out first base, Ash said, “That is, I think, obvious.”


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