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03/16/11 10:27 PM ET

Hart worried he won't be ready for Opening Day

Bothersome rib-cage injury healing slowly for Crew outfielder

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Corey Hart took swings off a batting tee Tuesday to test his strained left rib-cage muscle. He didn't have a setback, but he didn't take a step forward, either.

Thursday marks t-minus two weeks before the Brewers' season opener, and manager Ron Roenicke conceded the growing possibility that Hart will not be ready.

"It's still not coming as fast as I want it to," Hart said. "It won't go away. I still can't go full-speed on anything. Hitting off the tee is fine, but I can't amp it up the way I know I can. I can throw, but as soon as I have to do a quick move or let it go, it kills.

"I can't go out there and be a huge liability. I'm basically just waiting for my body to do what it's supposed to do."

He is healing, Hart said. He's simply healing slowly.

"At first they said [he would miss] two weeks; now I hope it's not a month," said Hart, who was hurt in a throwing drill Feb. 26 when he didn't set his feet properly and tweaked his oblique, the large muscle along the rib cage.

Hart turns 29 on March 24 and had previously targeted that date to be back at full strength and getting ready for the team's March 31 season opener in Cincinnati. There is still the possibility he will hit that target but would need to make significant progress in the coming days to get there.

And even if he does hit that target, Hart would have only one week of spring games to prepare for the season.

"That's not a lot of at-bats," Roenicke said. "We'll have to talk with him and see how he feels. Some guys need a lot of at-bats. I'm not familiar with what he's comfortable with. I don't know if he's comfortable with 15 at-bats and start the season."

Last spring, Hart was never comfortable at all. He was 11-for-64 (.172) in Cactus League games and bumped from the Opening Day lineup by veteran Jim Edmonds. Hart eventually won back that job, was voted by his peers to the National League All-Star team and signed a three-year contract extension.

There's another question in the back of Roenicke's mind this spring -- why have the Brewers been so bitten by injuries? Many have been of the fluke variety, like left fielder Ryan Braun slamming into the outfield wall during batting practice, Zack Greinke cracking a rib playing basketball, Chris Dickerson crashing into Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval and prospect Logan Schafer breaking his thumb sliding into second.

But then there's Hart's oblique and a slew of players with "stiffness" -- Rickie Weeks' groin, Yuniesky Betancourt's quadriceps and Carlos Gomez's and Manny Parra's backs. The Brewers have one of baseball's most respected and decorated athletic training staffs, but it's nonetheless been a tough first Spring Training for the club's new skipper.

"I think you do have to go back and look at what's going on," Roenicke said. "Talking [ground balls] and having Corey throw a ball and have a [rib-cage injury], that's really rare. I can't remember that happening to someone. It's almost always a swing. That's kind of weird."

Hart spent the winter putting on muscle weight and reported to camp saying he was stronger than ever. Now he's doing cardio work "like crazy," trying to stay in physical shape while he waits for the soreness to subside, but was held out of baseball activity on Wednesday.

It was a very unwanted day off.

"I'm just relaxing today," a dejected Hart said. "I don't want to over-kill it."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.