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Hart ready to fill in as outfielder

ARLINGTON -- With Robinson Cano lined up to play designated hitter on Thursday for the Mariners, Corey Hart went to manager Lloyd McClendon and said he was ready to play right field.

Hart wound up hauling in four fly balls, including two fairly tough catches, in Seattle's 8-6 loss. The first ball hit to Hart was a deep drive by J.P. Arencibia that sent him back to the wall for a long running catch in the second, and he later made a nice sliding grab on an Alex Rios looping liner in the sixth.

"That probably helped," Hart said of his welcome-back shot from Arencibia. "I was hoping for a nice easy one right out of the gate, but that helped me relax after that and I was able to get the ones that came my way."

Hart hadn't played in the outfield since July 27, 2012, while with the Brewers, prior to his two microfracture knee surgeries that wiped out all of '13. But Hart worked in the outfield this spring and told McClendon he was ready to give it a run after starting at DH in 10 of Seattle's first 14 games.

"He told me he's feeling good and his knees are fine," said McClendon, who had indicated earlier in the week that it would be a while before he played Hart in the outfield. "I've got to go with my player, too. He said he's feeling pretty good. But we'll watch him. We'll keep an eye on him."

Hart is no stranger to the outfield, with 793 career starts there while with the Brewers. Only in the past few years has he shifted more to first base. The Mariners hoped to play him there after signing him to a one-year deal in free agency, but a sore right bicep in spring limited his work, and McClendon also doesn't want to push his knees too quickly.

"I'd much rather play in the field than not play in the field," Hart said. "My arm hasn't helped that issue, but you've got to start somewhere. So I'll go out there and give Robbie a break and hopefully not have any issues.

"I've just been doing regular BP stuff in the outfield. Other than that, not a ton. But I've been out there before. I don't think he's expecting me to win any awards out there right now. He just wants me to catch it when it's hit my direction."

McClendon said Hart definitely wouldn't play the outfield in the more spacious right field in Miami this weekend, but there is a possibility he could play a game at first base when the Mariners lose the designated hitter in the Interleague series.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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