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Roenicke still planning for four-month Hart absence

PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was happy to hear that Corey Hart was so bullish about his return from knee surgery. Hart told a visiting ESPN reporter this week that he was aiming to be back at first base in the big leagues by April 20, which would beat the team's estimate by more than a month.

But Roenicke is still operating under the assumption that Hart will be out longer.

"It does make a difference, how you go about things mentally in coming back from injuries and rehabbing, and if he's positive, he's probably going to work harder," Roenicke said. "But the doctors tell us it's going to be four months [post-surgery] -- I'm going on that. If he comes back sooner than that, great. He says he's a fast healer, I hope he is. But I think, realistically, we're looking somewhere the later part of May."

Roenicke added again: "If he's back earlier, great."

Hart had surgery Jan. 25 to repair an imperfection in his knee joint and fix a small meniscal tear.

He has a follow-up MRI scheduled for March 8, at which point the timetable could become clearer. That timetable matters in this case because the Brewers already have lost their Plan B at first base, Mat Gamel, to a knee injury of his own, and will spend the first Cactus League games evaluating internal options like Bobby Crosby, Alex Gonzalez, Taylor Green and Hunter Morris. If Hart has any setbacks, the team may be more inclined to seek a regular first baseman from outside the organization.