The Milwauke Brewers, who thought they were set at every position in the field heading into spring training, suddenly have a void at first base.
When Corey Hart began experiencing swelling in his right knee during offseason workouts, an MRI was performed that revealed a possible defect. Surgery was scheduled with team physician William Raasch in Milwaukee, but that was delayed at least temporarily while Hart sought a second opinion from specialist Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo.
Assuming Hart has the surgery, he is expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season. This is not the first time Hart has had problems with that knee. In spring training last year, he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a significant meniscus tear, but he recovered in time to open the season.
After first baseman Mat Gamel was lost for the season in early May with a torn ACL in his right knee, Hart was moved from right field to fill that position. He performed so well, the decision was made to leave him there for the 2013 season.
That decision left Gamel in limbo, supposedly destined to fill a utility role. Now, in what is becoming a full circle, he is the logical candidate to fill in at first base in Hart's absence.
"In that regard, it solves a dilemma," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "We liked what we saw from (Gamel) early last year before he injured the knee in what was really an accident.
"And it's better that this happened on Jan. 18 and not March 18."
In 21 games before being injured, the left-handed-hitting Gamel batted .246 with one homer and six RBI. Ash said the team's medical personnel have assured the Brewers that Gamel is completely recovered from his knee injury and merely needs to return to game shape.
The injury comes at an inopportune time for Hart, who is entering the final year of a three-year deal that would take him into free agency. He openly campaigned last season for a contract extension to remain in Milwaukee, but the Brewers have yet to give any indication they would make such an offer.