The Brewers have spent the entire season waiting for Corey Hart to return from offseason knee surgery. After seeing his return pushed back multiple times already this year, it now looks like there's a chance Hart doesn't play at all this season.
While continuing to rehab from microfracture surgery on his right knee, Hart apparently did something to that caused his left knee to "flare up." Now he's in Los Angeles getting a second opinion on a second injured knee.
Needless to say, it's been a frustrating recovery period for everyone in Milwaukee. The Brewers' initial projection on Hart's return was sometime in May. That was eventually pushed back to early June, and then late June once he was moved to the 60-day disabled list to create room on the 40-man roster. Then general manager Doug Melvin told a local radio show that Hart wouldn't probably be back until after the All-Star break. Now you have assistant GM Gord Ash giving quotes like these, after this latest development:
"There's a reason they are called medical opinions. They are not called medical facts. You try to put parameters on them but there's no way of controlling nature."
If the new injury to the left knee is significant enough to halt rehab on the right knee, it would be difficult for Hart to get both knees healthy in time to see the field this year.
It's a setback that is crushing to the Brewers on two separate fronts. For one, Brewers first basemen have been the worst in baseball in 2013, entering Tuesday night's action with a .180/.222/.284 line. For the sake of comparison/hilarity, Brewers' pitchers entered Tuesday night hitting .208/.214/.272. Juan Francisco has been a mild improvement since being acquired from Atlanta, but before that move the Brewers were giving most of the starts to Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez.
But where this really hurts the Brewers — all but confirmed to be sellers at this point — is on the trade front. Hart is a free agent after this season, and a healthy month or two before the deadline could have made Hart an attractive rental for a team looking for some middle-of-the-order pop. Over the past three years, Hart has hit a combined .279/.343/.514 with a 128 OPS+ and a 162-game average of 34 home runs. With that kind of track record, even a healthy couple of weeks before the deadline (or an August waiver deal) could have netted the Brewers — starved for minor league talent — an interesting prospect. Now they're looking at not getting any compensation for him unless they want to risk a qualifying offer.
Of course, it's also a tough break for Hart, who was looking for one last big contract. Now he's a 6'6" guy on the wrong side of 30 who's been plagued with knee issues over the past two years.