Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Brewers 1B Corey Hart to Have Knee Surgery, Miss Spring Training

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News broke Friday afternoon regarding Milwaukee Brewers first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart, as he’s slated to have knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus this upcoming Tuesday according to this article from the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports).

Tom Haudricourt, the long-time Brewers “beat writer” for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, interviewed Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash for his Friday article (and previous blog post on the same subject).  In both places, Ash said two things: one, the Brewers still have Mat Gamel on the roster.  This is significant because Gamel started 2012 as the starting first baseman for the team, and only vacated that role due to a knee injury he suffered while fielding a foul ball in San Diego in late April.  And two, it’s better for this injury to have happened now rather than right before the start of the season.

While both things are true — as is Corey Hart’s assertion that he’s a “fast healer,” considering how quickly Hart returned from surgery last season (he was supposed to miss some or all of April, but ended up starting Opening Day in right field just as he — and the Brewers — had planned) — this is still not a good thing.

I have nothing against Mat Gamel and think he will make a good everyday player if he’s given a chance.  Gamel’s fielding in the short stretch of games he had before hitting that pothole in San Diego due to inadequate field maintenance was quite good.  His hitting was acceptable for so early in the year (Gamel was batting .246).  And there’s every reason to believe Gamel would’ve done an adequate-to-better job at first base.

However, Corey Hart did an excellent job at first base after being moved there midway through the season.  His batting did not suffer, either, as he hit 30 home runs, drove in 83 RBI, and batted .270 (his average suffered somewhat in September due to playing on a sprained-or-worse plantar fascia, which brought his overall average down).  Hart is one of the “big three” on the Brewers and is counted on along with Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez to keep the Brewers in games.

(And did I mention that Hart is a two-time All-Star?  No?  My bad.)

The Brewers currently have a starting rotation with only one proven, dependable guy — Yovani Gallardo — which is why it’s imperative that all the strong bats the Brewers possess be in the lineup.  The other Brewers who could possibly be starting pitchers include last year’s “swingman” Marco Estrada, who filled in capably for the injured Chris Narveson; Narveson, who’s coming back from a serious arm injury and may be on a limited pitch count all year, which will limit his effectiveness as a starter; second-year starter Michael Fiers; and outright rookies Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg.  These six men will battle it out for the four remaining starting pitching positions, but it’s impossible to know how many — if any — will be successful.

Let’s just say that the possible starters for the Brewers, with the exception of Gallardo, don’t exactly scare anyone and leave it at that.

At any rate, Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan’s latest column on the Brewers (a preseason lookover written before the news about Hart’s injury broke) said that Ryan Braun’s big bat isn’t enough to overcome the lack of quality starters.  And that’s likely to be true.

My worry is this: How much difficulty are the Brewers likely to have scoring runs when Hart’s not in the lineup?  (Because before Gamel got hurt, Hart was playing every day in right field.  So it wasn’t like Gamel was taking Hart’s place — instead, after Gamel got injured, Hart moved over there and Norichika Aoki played in right field every day.)

My take?  Hart will come back strong, but I hope he doesn’t rush himself.  He’s in the final year of a three-year contract and will be a free agent at the end of 2013 unless the Brewers give him a contract extension, which is unlikely until he actually gets on the field and performs at a high level again.

If the Brewers do not have the sense to give Hart an extension, he needs to be at full strength in order to show the rest of the league just how good he is.

I really hope the Brewers will re-sign Hart, mind you.  But I’m very nervous, as I’m afraid the Brewers might be too short-sighted to realize just what they have in Hart until he’s gone.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 19, 2013 at 4:20 am

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