Hart makes return to Miller Park
Pirates' reserve gets first chance to play as visitor in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- Corey Hart watched a reporter approach him in Miller Park's visiting clubhouse, slipped off his earphones and, without waiting for the question, said, "It's not a big deal."
However, Hart's return to the house whose roof he used to raise figured to be a loud deal. Brewers fans who remember his exploits were sure to accord him a warm welcome back.
"I hope so," Hart said. "I had some good years here, it was a fun time, and I hope the fans appreciate what I did. It would definitely be appreciated [by me]."
Those fans would need to have a good memory. Hart played his last game here on Oct. 1, 2012 -- three days after hitting his 153rd and 154th homers for Milwaukee. Right knee surgery kept him out of uniform in '13, and free agency took him out of Milwaukee in '14, when he signed with the Mariners.
"I miss the fans. I miss some of the guys I was close with, but baseball is such a business, guys move around," said Hart, who characteristically looked forward more to seeing familiar faces than a familiar place. "More the coaches, [third-base coach] Eddie [Sedar] and [bullpen catcher] Marcus [Hanel]. It'll be nice to see some of the guys I don't see very often or talk to too much. That's probably the big part about coming back."
This series presents Hart's first opportunity to play as a visitor in Miller Park. Manager Clint Hurdle strongly hinted that Hart would get to make his first start during one of the weekend games -- giving him a chance to notch his 1,000th career hit where many of the first 998 have come.
"Yeah, it'd be cool to get it here," Hart said. "But that's not something I really think about. I had a good time here but, at the same time. it's been a few years, and i'm just happy to be with these guys and start a new chapter."
Entering this series, Hart had seen one pitch this season -- and turned it into a pinch-hit RBI single that gave the Bucs their first lead of the season, in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's game in Cincinnati.
"He's an experienced guy who's hungry," Hurdle said of the 33-year-old, 11-year veteran. "He believes he's healthy. He's worked hard to be healthy, and he's looking for an opportunity to play."
Hart is most likely to get that first opportunity in right field, spelling Gregory Polanco either Saturday or Sunday. That would be the comfortable, familiar spot for Hart. With Prince Fielder a teammate during his Brewers years, 700 of his 803 Milwaukee starts came in right field, obviously many of them right here.