After suffering a torn meniscus and missing all of spring training before the 2012 season, Hart was expected to be placed on the disabled list at the start of the regular season due to the knee injury but wound up in right field on opening day.
Now, Hart enters the season as a first baseman after his position switch midseason last year, but the injury bug has bitten again -- in the same exact spot. Hart required surgery in late-January to repair cartilage damage, and this time there's no doubt that it will keep Hart out for the start of the season.
This is the third straight offseason Hart has dealt with injury problems, dating back to 2011 when he suffered a strained oblique. It was an injury Hart rushed back from in April to play, but his performance suffered as a result. Even though Hart sounded optimistic about returning in April, he has recently stepped back from those comments.
In other words, we shouldn't expect to see Hart play for the Brewers in April, even though he was cleared March 9 to intensify his rehab via Brewers beat writer Adam McCalvy. Still, an injury that was expected to keep Hart out until late-May will probably only sideline him until the early portion of May -- and that's encouraging for Milwaukee's prospects of a run at the postseason.
In the meantime, it will likely be Alex Gonzalez, the 36-year-old shortstop turned first baseman, replacing Hart. Gonzalez was originally brought in to back up and mentor the young Jean Segura at short, but due to the injury to Hart and the torn ACL for Mat Gamel, an opportunity arose for Gonzalez to be a full-time contributor for the Brewers early this season.
It's no surprise that Gonzalez has picked up his new position with relative ease, as Sea Bass is very skilled with the leather. Almost certainly, Hart's absence will hurt the Brewers on offense, and perhaps even in the field because of his long reach and height. But he has been known to get off to slow starts in the past, and Gonzalez at least provides an adequate bat for Milwaukee's lineup.
The Brewers' shouldn't really suffer on defense with Hart out until May, but it will be up to the rest of the Milwaukee lineup to pick up the slack on offense. Gonzalez was hitting .259 with 1 HR and 5 RBIs in exhibition play through March 19, and the Brewers would be more than pleased if he can continue that pace entering the regular season.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
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