TEMPE, Ariz. -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart said Saturday that he was "way ahead of schedule" in his recovery from knee surgery, and all indications are that he will be physically ready for Opening Day.Will he be in Milwaukee's Opening Day lineup? That's a separate issue. "What it comes down to is, if he stays on this pace, physically, he will be ready to go Opening Day," manager Ron Roenicke said. "But, baseball-wise, I don't know if he will be [ready]. We're trying to figure about how many games that we think he's going to need." The Brewers may err on the side of caution considering Hart's experience last year, when he missed all of Spring Training with a rib cage issue and returned after limited preparatory at-bats when another outfielder, Nyjer Morgan, was sidelined. Still finding his stroke, Hart batted .235 with one RBI in his first 15 games. He hit .290 with 26 home runs and 62 RBIs in the 115 games that followed. If Hart misses Opening Day, the Brewers expect him to be ready shortly thereafter. Clubs can backdate a season-opening stint on the 15-day disabled list to March 26. In that scenario, Hart could be active as early as April 10, the Brewers' fifth regular-season game. He had a bounce in his step Saturday morning. "I'm way ahead of schedule," Hart said. Here's that schedule so far: Hart underwent arthroscopic surgery on March 6 to repair three tears to cartilage in his right knee. That was a Tuesday; he was back at Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday on crutches. By that Friday, he was down to one crutch. By Sunday, he was walking without crutches. One week post-surgery, on Tuesday, March 13, Hart told athletic trainers he felt ready to begin running on a treadmill, and they held him off until Thursday. On Friday, Hart had the stitches removed from three small entry points around his kneecap. He also hit off a tee for the first time and threw on the field. He apparently passed that test, because Hart said he was feeling "great" on Saturday morning. Of his timetable, he said, "It really depends on how fast I can get comfortable with baseball stuff. Running on the treadmill is a lot different than running on the field. But I just had my stitches out yesterday, and I'm already doing a lot more than I thought I would be." Hart's speedy recovery doesn't surprise second baseman Rickie Weeks, who had a similar procedure after the 2008 postseason and walked out of surgery. "It's really not a bad surgery," Weeks said. "I'm not surprised at all to see him doing so good."
Braun not concerned with struggles, reception
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Braun says he isn't about to start counting outs, or boo birds.Braun played his first spring road game on Saturday, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a slick sliding catch in foul ground during an 8-1 Brewers loss to the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Braun dropped to 1-for-15 so far this spring with a home run and three walks. Is 15 at-bats enough to draw any conclusions? "There's never a quantity of at-bats in Spring Training that would concern me, ever," Braun said. "Spring Training has never been result-oriented. It's always process-oriented. The process is certainly a little different this year. It's an adjustment I'll have to make."
This spring is different because Braun, after appealing a suspension over the winter, is under a spotlight brighter than the Arizona sunshine. He played before supportive crowds at Maryvale Baseball Park, but Saturday received a harsher reception on the road, even as an L.A. guy playing in front of Angels fans."I don't think anything of it," Braun said. "That's a story for you guys." Of Braun's progression, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, "He's just a little bit off, but I think he's seeing the ball better." Next week, Braun will gradually begin to increase his workload. He said he plans to start back-to-back games for the first time on Monday and Tuesday -- both road games, including a Monday matchup with Yu Darvish and the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz. It's part of his process. "If I go 0-for-50 in Spring Training, I'm 100 percent confident I'll have success in the season. I'm serious," Braun said. "It's just a different intensity, different focus, energy, enthusiasm when you play regular-season games. It just is. "Of course, I want to have success. You always want to have success. But it's different."
Opportunity knocks for Braddock, Parra
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Left-hander Juan Perez's ill-timed health scare has created an opening for two other lefty relievers in Brewers camp. Now it's up to either Zack Braddock or Manny Parra to seize the opportunity."With the numbers, there's definitely an opportunity for one of the left-handers to be on our club," manager Ron Roenicke said. Both Braddock and Parra are returning from lost 2011 seasons. Braddock had a 7.27 ERA in 25 games and was shut down in July to be treated for a sleep disorder and other personal issues. Parra missed Spring Training with a back injury, then injured his elbow on a rehab assignment. He didn't pitch at all last season. Both have had mixed results this spring. Opponents are batting .308 against Braddock in three games. Parra, who is out of options, has been better, with seven strikeouts in five innings and a .286 opponents' average. Roenicke said both pitchers worked with a few miles per hour missing from their fastballs on Friday against the Royals. "Hopefully, with a week to go, somebody will lock in on stuff and command," Roenicke said. Assuming Shaun Marcum can shake a sore shoulder and start the season in the pitching rotation, the Brewers have two open bullpen spots for four leading candidates: left-handers Braddock and Parra and right-handers Tim Dillard and Mike Fiers. Dillard's stock skyrocketed on Friday when another out-of-options right-hander, Frankie De La Cruz, was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. That is not an exhaustive list; Mike McClendon has big league experience and is getting a look. Perez was impressive before a partially collapsed lung derailed his bid.
Outfielder Carlos Gomez suffered a cut to his left hand when he was caught stealing in the eighth inning Saturday. Manager Ron Roenicke was not sure in the moments after the team's 8-1 loss to the Angels whether it was anything to worry about.
Relievers John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez were both sharp in one-inning stints against the Angels. Each has allowed one earned run in five Cactus League innings.
Rain is in the forecast for the Phoenix area on Sunday, putting Zack Greinke's scheduled start against the Rangers and Shaun Marcum's live batting-practice session in some jeopardy. Both would probably work in Maryvale Baseball Park's covered batting cages in the event of bad weather.