Hart's surgery set for today
If he hadn’t been, no one could have blamed him. After all, the big rightfielder was just a day removed from learning he’ll miss a significant chunk of spring training for the second consecutive year.
Hart is scheduled for surgery today to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee. He’s expected to miss three to four weeks while he rehabilitates, meaning he might not be ready to play on opening day April 6.
“Three springs without a hit,” Hart said with a laugh, making light of his forgettable 2010 spring in which he slumped badly. He spoke from the Brewers’ clubhouse in Maryvale in advance of the team’s night exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale.
“My two best years, no hits and no games (in the spring), so I’m trying to keep the streak alive. But it’s tough. I came in running better than I’d been running in three years and felt good about it, but I look at it as it’s much better having it done now than trying to play through it and end up having this done in July or August.”
Last year, Hart missed just about all of camp after suffering a strained left oblique when he slipped on wet grass making a throw during a defensive drill.
He spent the first 22 games of the season on the disabled list, then struggled for a few weeks after returning. Hart had a solid year, however, finishing at .285 with 26 home runs and 63 runs batted in.
“That’s not an excuse,” he said. “Everybody here goes through a bad two weeks. If those were my bad two weeks, I was fine.”
The news of Hart’s injury came as a surprise. He was still in the Brewers’ lineup for their Cactus League opener Sunday less than an hour before the first pitch until finally being scratched. Not long after that, word came down that he’d need surgery.
“They basically gave me the option—play through it or surgery,” Hart said. “But if I tried to play through it, there’s a decent chance that it’s not going to get better. And if it gets worse, it’s a big procedure and I’m going to miss three, four months.
“If I get it now, I might be there for opening day, might miss a week. All depends on how it heals. But it’s kind of a no-brainer.”
Hart confirmed that he injured the knee since he arrived for spring training, but even he wasn’t sure exactly when or how it happened.
“It could have been a number of things,” he said. “It got to that point (where it was really bad). But I had basically a week where I just had a sore knee, and I didn’t think anything about it. Just iced it. I just figured it was because I was taking ground balls and doing all that stuff (while working out at first base).”
Hart also mentioned he slipped while wearing cleats as he made his way to watch Ryan Braun’s news conference on Feb. 24, the day after his successful appeal was announced.
“I had a pretty good fall about a week ago, and I don’t know if that had anything to do with it,” he said. “I was running to see Brauny’s thing, and I slipped on the concrete out by the minor-league complex. So I don’t know if that was it.”
“It just got sore, and then the last three, four days it started feeling like it did (the first time). That’s when I was saying I might have (injured) it again.”
Hart said it will be the second such procedure he’ll have had on his right knee. The first came in 2001, his second year in the Brewers’ organization.
“I was in rookie ball,” he said. “Hurt it in the spring. I played with it. But of course, I was 19 (years old) and 180 pounds. But there was no chance of making it worse. Now, if it gets worse, it’s three, four months instead of maybe missing a few games.”
Hart will start rehabbing immediately after the surgery, which has left him optimistic he’ll be able to be ready for opening day.
“It’s just trying to get into baseball shape,” he said. “I can go over (to the minor-league complex) and get nine at-bats a game if I want to. It’ll be good, because I won’t have to worry about first base, and I can play every other day.”
There remains the possibility that the surgery could uncover something worse, however, a point manager Ron Roenicke touched on and Hart recognizes.
“I think that’s with anything,” Hart said. “Anytime you go into a shoulder or knee or whatever, there’s a chance something could be worse than you think. But (team physician William) Raasch looked over everything, the main MRI reader checked it out and basically thought I could play.”
Hart’s teammates empathized with him.
“You feel for him personally,” said Braun. “He’s always been one of my best friends. He’s a great player. He certainly helps our team a lot. So, from that perspective, it’s disappointing..
“We do have the luxury of having some depth. Our fourth and fifth outfielders are as good as anybody in baseball. It’s never something you want to see happen, but we have the depth to be able to hold down the fort until he comes back.”