MILWAUKEE -- Corey Hart played nine innings on Monday for the first time in more than five weeks and returned to the Major Leagues with heavy legs.

"But it's not as bad as I thought it would be," said Hart, who was activated from the Brewers' 15-day disabled list late Tuesday morning, 38 days after undergoing an appendectomy.

The Brewers activated Hart and recalled third baseman Mat Gamel the morning after Triple-A Nashville pounded out 17 hits in its season finale. Neither player was in Milwaukee's starting lineup Tuesday night to face the Cardinals, but Hart is expected to start the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. The team has the day off Thursday, and if Hart feels well, he could resume relatively regular playing time starting Friday in Arizona, said manager Ken Macha. However, Macha has four other outfielders to consider as well.

"I played all nine innings [Monday] and was a little gassed, but I think that was more or less because we were playing in New Orleans and it was 100 degrees," Hart said. "I was on base four times and it was definitely a good test for me. I wanted that. I had to go first to third, had to score from second base, had to chase a couple balls to the wall and I had to make a couple of throws.

"It was nice to get those out of the way, and now I feel like I can come back here and do some things. I want to steal [bases], but I don't know if my legs are there quite yet."

His bat looks just fine. Hart went 5-for-10 in his four-game rehabilitation stint with the Sounds, collecting all five of the hits in his final two games. He finished a triple shy of the cycle on Sunday, then collected two more hits and scored a pair of runs in Monday's 8-3 win.

He hopes to resume the Major League hot streak he left behind. Hart was on a 25-for-73 (.342) tear over the 21 games entering the Brewers' Aug. 1 game in San Diego, when he went 0-for-4 and complained of abdominal pain. The next day, he underwent surgery to remove an inflamed appendix.

"It was hard getting back into playing shape," Hart said. "You never really sit out a whole month, even in the offseason, because you're always working out. So my biggest thing was to get back into shape, and I'm not there yet. But I'm getting close."

The Brewers fell out of the race while he was out. The team was still in it at the beginning of August, one game under .500 and 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central. Entering play Tuesday, the Brewers were five games under .500 and 15 games out of first.

"The team isn't playing as well as we would have liked, but it's still tough when you can't get out there and do anything at all," Hart said. "This was my first time on the DL, here or in the Minor Leagues. I had to get used to that, get used to working back into game shape. It took a little longer than I thought."