Fan perspective: Corey Hart’s muscle pull recovery taking longer than expected

Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Corey Hart(notes) aggravated his left oblique injury during outfield drills March 5. Hart said it doesn't feel any worse than it did, but it wasn't any better either, meaning his recovery is taking longer than anticipated.

He was originally targeted to begin playing in Cactus League games March 14, but that's up in the air. Manager Ron Roenicke believes Hart will still be ready to play on Opening Day. The Brewers open March 31 in Cincinnati.

I am always apprehensive about athletes' muscle pulls that are slow to heal. Hamstring, oblique, and groin pulls are infamous for having lingering negative effects on an athlete's performance. At this point, I'll go along with Roencke's assessment that Hart will be ready by Opening Day, but at the same time I'll be keeping a close eye on his progress this spring.

In 2010, Corey Hart was an important component in the Brewers offense. He hit .283 and had career highs in home runs (31) and RBIs (102). If the injury forces a trip to the disabled for Corey, the Brewers are not deep in outfielders, and those that are in camp are not impressive at first glance.

Here's how I see the backup outfield candidates:

Chris Dickerson(notes), acquired from Cincinnati in the Jim Edmonds(notes) trade last August, may be the strongest candidate. He hit just .206 in 45 games for the Reds and Brewers in 2010, but much of his season was lost to injuries. He hit .275 in 97 games with Reds in 2009, and had 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts. His speed would fit in with Roenicke's strategy of being more aggressive on the bases. Dickerson, who turns 29 on April 10, is a left-handed hitter.

Switch-hitting Brandon Boggs(notes), 28, hit .212 in 114 games for the Texas Rangers from 2008-2010. Most of those games were in 2008, and he spent almost all of 2009 and 2010 in the minors. Both Boggs and Dickerson can play all three outfield positions, definitely a plus.

Veteran Mark Kotsay(notes), 35, has been more of a pinch hitter and first baseman in recent years, but earlier in his career he played a lot in the outfield. A left-handed hitter, Kotsay hit .239 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 107 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2010.

Another veteran in camp (as a non-roster invitee) is Jeremy Reed(notes), who has played with Seattle, the New York Mets, and Toronto. He spent most of last season in the minors, and had a few at bats with the Blue Jays. Reed is another left-handed hitter.

At this point, I believe the two strongest candidates for backup outfield jobs are Chris Dickerson and Mark Kotsay. Dickerson has speed and can play all three outfield positions, and would be a good backup for Carlos Gomez(notes) in center as well as filling in for Hart. Kotsay also has versatility as a first baseman, outfielder, and pinch hitter.

Of course, spring training is the time for players to step up and I hope to be pleasantly surprised by players who exceed expectations and make the club. I also hope Corey Hart is healthy enough to be in right field on Opening Day.

Mark Hudziak has been a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers since they arrived in Milwaukee in 1970.

Sources:

Brewers' Hart set back in rib cage recovery

Brewers RF Hart aggravates his oblique injury

Milwaukee Brewers player stats at MLB.com

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Updated Monday, Mar 7, 2011