Ahead of schedule, Hart hopes to return in April
Once thought to be lost for year, outfielder to have MRI on knee March 8
PHOENIX -- Brewers first baseman Corey Hart was still using crutches Wednesday, but said he was ahead of schedule in his return from right knee surgery and aiming to be back before the end of April.
His optimism was especially noteworthy considering one doctor predicted only weeks ago that Hart's season was over.
Hart stopped by Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday for a checkup with Dr. William Raasch and spoke at length about his rehab for the first time since undergoing surgery on Jan. 25 to repair a torn meniscus and smooth an imperfection in the joint surface. He hopes to be cleared for more intense rehab after an MRI scan scheduled for March 8.
Hart had hoped that MRI would come sooner, but was upbeat about his progress.
"Everything is coming faster than they thought it would come," he said.
The prognosis was much direr at one point last month.
Hart's knee had been an issue throughout all of 2012, beginning in Spring Training when he underwent surgery for two meniscal tears, and continuing early in the season when he banged the knee against the wall at Miller Park while attempting a sliding catch. Hart played through swelling in the joint all season, then rested in October and November while waiting for another injury -- painful plantar fascia in his right foot -- to heal.
When he tried to ramp up his training in December, Hart's right knee began to act up. Raasch, the Brewers' head physician, recommended a surgery to repair a smaller meniscal tear and debride the joint surface, and told Hart he'd be sidelined three to four months.
But that procedure was delayed a few days while Hart exercised his right to a second opinion from Dr. Richard Steadman, a Vail, Colo.-based specialist considered one of the world's foremost knee experts. Steadman recommended a much more invasive microfracture surgery.
"He said I was out for the year," Hart said. "I was like, 'That is not going to happen.'"
But over the next few days, Hart said, Steadman and Raasch conferred and opted for the original procedure. Afterward, the Brewers projected a four-month rehab.
Hart wants to be back sooner.
"[April] is not out of the question," he said. "I'm not necessarily a fast healer, I'm just a hard worker. I do everything and then I ask for extra stuff. I make sure I give myself [every] chance to come back quicker."
Roenicke speaks in support of Braun
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spoke out Wednesday in support of left fielder Ryan Braun, who has remained quiet since making a statement explaining his link to the South Florida clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball for allegedly supplying some players with banned substances.
Roenicke said he disagreed with Yahoo! Sports' decision to publish excerpts from the logbook of Tony Bosch, the former head of that clinic, that included Braun's name, even though Braun was never linked to any illicit substances or treatments. Braun later said in a statement that his lawyers consulted with Bosch in the 2011-12 offseason, during Braun's appeal of a suspension.
"It's a pet peeve, I guess, of mine: Don't bring up anybody's name and put it in there if you're questioning it," Roenicke said. "If there's something going on and there's a definite [transgression], fine, that's your job to put it out there. But don't bring up names that you're not sure of and then retract it later, because it never is retracted from the fans or the people that are out there. Never. There are some people who will say, 'OK, they shouldn't have put it out there,' but for the majority, it's still there in their mind. So it shouldn't be out there.
"That's what I have an issue with. You want to bring up somebody's name, then you'd better be sure when you write it up. It's very unfair to the player, and that's what I have an issue with. It's not right."
Tim Brown, one of the veteran reporters who wrote the story linking Braun to the clinic, has said Yahoo! Sports considered Braun's appearance in the logbook newsworthy because it had confirmed MLB would investigate the link.
Braun and the rest of Brewers position players report to Maryvale Baseball Park on Friday, and the team's first full-squad workout is Saturday. Roenicke indicated the Braun matter was low on his list of priorities.
"To be honest with you, I'm not really thinking about handling it or anything until there's more information on what is there," Roenicke said. "I can't make comments on something I know nothing about. I talked to Ryan, he's coming in and I know he's going to have to deal with some press issues, but we're just going to move on with it as if nothing's there. ...
"It was different last year. We knew what the specifics were last year," Roenicke said. "I knew what to address, what I wasn't supposed to talk about. I knew where he was on those issues. I don't know anything [now]. Let's see where we are. It may be nothing. If it's just the thing with the lawyer and payments, then it's nothing."
On young staff, Gallardo looked to for leadership
PHOENIX -- Brewers pitchers and catchers had their first formal Spring Training workout on Wednesday.
So was manager Ron Roenicke ready to name Yovani Gallardo the Opening Day starter?
"No, but you can guess well," Roenicke said.
Gallardo is the Brewers' clear No. 1 starter this season after years of sharing the spotlight with other established arms, from Ben Sheets to CC Sabathia to Zack Greinke. At some point, barring an unforeseen injury, Roenicke will tab Gallardo to start the Brewers' April 1 season opener against the Rockies.
"We need him this year," Roenicke said. "We've lost our veteran pitchers, our starters, and we need 'Yo' to be that guy. Hopefully, he'll be a guy that these young guys look up to. Great work ethic, and that's going to be important."
• Non-roster left-hander Joe Webb was restricted from throwing after his physical exam revealed a minor shoulder issue, assistant general manager Gord Ash announced. Webb will be re-examined in a week or two.
"Because we don't have a history with him, we're trying to be cautious instead of letting it turn into something major," Ash said. "Everybody else has their usual wear-and-tear, but no restrictions."
• Right-handers Jairo Asencio and Alfredo Figaro and left-hander Miguel De Los Santos were being delayed in the Dominican Republic while awaiting visas. Ash said Dominican players from other teams were similarly delayed after the U.S. consulate there had requested reviews of some previously completed background checks. Asencio and Figaro are non-roster invitees to Brewers camp, and De Los Santos is on the 40-man roster, but will be sidelined until July while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Two other members of the 40-man roster -- pitcher Ariel Pena and shortstop Jean Segura -- faced similar visa delays, but were cleared on Tuesday. Pena was expected to arrive in Phoenix on Wednesday night and Segura by the weekend.