PHOENIX -- The Brewers are bracing to be without right fielder Corey Hart for the second consecutive Opening Day.Hart, who opened last season on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain, will undergo surgery this week for a torn meniscus in his right knee. He will be sidelined three to four weeks, leaving very little time to prepare for the team's April 6 season opener against the Cardinals. Asked whether the Brewers would have to find another right fielder to start the season, manager Ron Roenicke said, "Oh, I think so. Absolutely, if that timing is what they say it is. "You guys saw when we rushed him back last year when Nyjer [Morgan] went down and we were kind of in a need. [Hart] thought he was ready. Physically he was ready, but [in terms] of at-bats he wasn't, and it will probably be the same case. I don't want to rush him back if this is not something smart to do with this type of surgery." Last year, Hart came off the DL early when Morgan was injured in a collision at home plate. A rusty Hart batted .235 with one RBI in his first 15 games, then batted .290 with 26 home runs and 62 RBIs in the 115 games that followed.
If Hart's unable to return for this year's opener, the Brewers would need to find answers on a number of fronts. Hart is Milwaukee's five-hole hitter, an important spot considering he is expected to protect new cleanup man Aramis Ramirez, and Hart is expected to serve as the primary backup to new first baseman Mat Gamel. Roenicke said he had yet to discuss with Brewers coaches a plan going forward, including whether second baseman Rickie Weeks would have to slide down into the five-hole.Weeks, too, was banged up on Sunday. He and Hart were both scratched from the lineup for the Brewers' Cactus League opener 15 minutes before Randy Wolf's first pitch. Weeks has a stiff throwing shoulder. "Corey is more concerning," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "He's had a history of meniscus issues, but it's never been to this level." The diagnosis could have been worse. Ash said another scenario existed in which Hart would need a more invasive surgery, one that would have sidelined him well into the regular season. "You feel for him personally," left fielder Ryan Braun said. "He always been one of my best friends. He's a great player. He certainly helps our team a lot. So, from that perspective, it's disappointing. Obviously, as a team, we're better off if we have him. "We do have the luxury of having some depth. Our fourth and fifth outfielders are as good as anybody in baseball. It's never something you want to see happen, but we have the depth to be able to hold down the fort until he comes back." The Brewers' fourth and fifth outfielders are essentially Carlos Gomez and Japanese import Norichika Aoki. If Hart starts the season on the DL, it could open a spot for a prospect like Logan Schafer or Caleb Gindl, both of whom are already on the 40-man roster. As for Weeks, his shoulder has been bothering him for some time. He intended to play Sunday, but decided to take a more cautious approach following morning throwing drills. "Nothing big," Ash said. "We don't expect him to miss any kind of considerable time. It is, in reality, a day-to-day deal." In other injury news, pitcher Mark Rogers strained his left hamstring backing up home plate in Saturday's intrasquad game. Ash characterized the injury as minor, but Rogers will not participate in camp for at least two days.