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Brewers beat 5/27

May 27, 2010

Hart quietly heating up at the plate

MILWAUKEE — After batting .172 with a .221 on-base percentage and 18 strikeouts in Spring Training, right fielder Corey Hart did not start for the Brewers on Opening Day. Seven weeks later, Hart has quietly become one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters.

Over the past 11 games, Hart is batting .295 (13-for-44) with six home runs, 11 RBIs, eight runs scored, two doubles and a triple. With less than a week remaining in the month, Hart’s numbers in May have already eclipsed those of April in nearly every offensive category.

With six home runs this month, Hart has already doubled his April home run output.

“I’ve been trying to stay consistent, but for some reason lately the ball’s been getting in the air for me,” Hart said. “Sometimes I’ll find a swing that makes me hit the ball in the air a little farther than other times, but it kind of comes and goes. Right now the ones I hit good are going in the air, so I’ve been fortunate to have that streak go a bit longer than normal.”

For the season, Hart is batting .263 with nine home runs — which ties him with Casey McGehee for the team lead — and 23 RBIs, which puts him fourth on the team.

Last weekend in Minneapolis, he hit home runs in each of the Brewers’ last two games against the Twins at Target Field, a ballpark that is near the bottom of the league in terms of home runs per game.

But with the way Hart was swinging the bat, his home runs would have been out of any park. His second homer, which came in the Brewers’ 4-3 win on Sunday, was the first to ever reach the third deck at Target Field.

At an estimated 440 feet, it was the longest home run hit in the short history of the ballpark.

Since sitting out the series opener against the Braves on May 10, Hart has started 13 straight games for the Brewers.

“Looking back at it, he didn’t start Opening Day,” manager Ken Macha said of Hart. “A big deal was made about that and that he didn’t have a very good Spring Training. He’s come out here and worked with [hitting coach] Dale [Sveum] pretty hard and it’s nice to see the work paying off.”

To begin the season, Hart split time with veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds at right field in what, for the most part, amounted to a platoon. While Macha never wanted to call it such, Edmonds typically got the call against right-handed starters, while Hart mostly faced lefties.

The most surprising instance, though, was on Opening Day, when Edmonds got the start over Hart with righty Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound for the Rockies.

While Macha said Edmonds was starting because Jimenez fell into the category of “tough righty,” it was a surprising move with it being Opening Day and with Hart expected to be the club’s everyday right fielder.

Though he credits some of his success to the swing he’s had of late, Hart sees his more consistent playing time as the most important factor in his recent hot streak. Due to a handful of injuries to other outfielders, Hart has started far more of late than he had been early in the season.

“That was stupid, Spring Training doesn’t matter, but they decided it mattered this year for some reason,” Hart said of his preseason slump. “I’m just working to try to turn their minds around. Hopefully I can keep playing well so I can stay in the lineup.

“Coming into this season I think there was a question mark about how long I’d be in Milwaukee. But I want to be here, so hopefully they see me as an everyday guy again.”

Edmonds expected to return on Monday

MILWAUKEE — After speaking with Jim Edmonds before Thursday’s series finale, Brewers manager Ken Macha was optimistic about his veteran outfielder’s chances of returning on Monday when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Edmonds, who has been on the DL since May 18 with a left oblique strain, did some soft toss and took some swings in the batting cage before Thursday’s game. Macha also noted Edmonds will be out for early batting practice on Friday.

Edmonds’ return will likely mean the departure of a member of the bullpen, but Macha was not ready to speculate about the move just yet.

“We’ll wait for that when it gets there,” Macha said.

The news of Edmonds’ progress was particularly good for the Brewers considering the uncertainty regarding his return just a few days ago.

When asked about Edmonds during the Minnesota series over the past weekend, Macha said he thought there may be a chance Edmonds would not be back when he was eligible to return on May 31.

“That’s encouraging,” said Macha, referring to Edmonds’ progress. “He’s feeling optimistic, so I trust Jimmy because he let me know at the beginning of the year. He said, ‘I’ll be ready.'”

Inglett available; Gerut remains out

MILWAUKEE — Brewers manager Ken Macha expected to have just two pinch-hitters available for Thursday’s series finale against the Astros: Joe Inglett and Craig Counsell.

Inglett, who had been limited since Saturday with a sprained left ankle, will likely be the Brewers’ top option off the bench Thursday in an injury or pinch-hit situation. Macha said he wanted to get Counsell in the starting lineup, but did not want to lose a valuable bat off the bench.

“I talked to Inglett, he’s been getting a little bit better,” Macha said. “If we had a problem, [Inglett would] go out there and play.”

The other two members of his bench, outfielder Jody Gerut and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, were unavailable. Gerut for injury reasons and Lucroy in case of injury to starting catcher George Kottaras.

Gerut, like Inglett, has been limited since Saturday with a bruised right heel. Unlike Inglett, however, Gerut had not made enough progress to be available against the Astros.

“He’s still moving a little bit slow, it looks like,” Macha said of Gerut.

But Macha remains hesitant to move Gerut to the disabled list, in part due to Jim Edmonds’ recent progress.

“I tried to explain [Wednesday] that you [don’t] want to lose him for all those days,” Macha said. “Edmonds’ feeling was he probably could’ve been back by now, so now we’ve got to wait until a few more days.”

Worth noting

Brewers pitchers have not allowed a home run in the past seven games, their longest streak since August 11-18, 2000. The starting pitchers have not allowed a home run in 10 straight games, their longest streak since May 19-30, 1998. … Corey Hart leads the Majors in home runs since May 15 with six and is second in RBIs with 11. … Ryan Braun entered the day tied for the National League lead in hits with 59. … Casey McGehee ranks first or tied for first among third basemen in eight offensive categories, including batting average, hits and RBIs. … A win Thursday would give the Brewers their first series victory at home since taking two of three against Colorado to open the season.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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