Hart on rehabing from surgery, hoping to return soon

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers officials said Thursday that Corey Hart is recovering well from his latest knee surgery and is expected to visit Miller Park next week during the season's final homestand.

Will it be his final visit as a Brewer? That remains to be seen.

"We haven't even begun to consider it yet," assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "As we all know, there's plenty of time."

Hart, a free agent at season's end, will miss the entire year after undergoing surgery on his right knee in January and his left knee in July. He will visit early next week in Los Angeles with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the surgeon who did the second repair, before traveling on to Milwaukee to reunite with Brewers teammates. The Brewers will take advantage of that visit to conduct a year-end physical.

Considering Hart's positive progress so far, Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright confirmed that Hart should be baseball-ready in time for 2014 Spring Training.

"Back two weeks post-surgery for the left knee, he said, 'The right knee feels to the point where I could play on it right now,'" Wright said. "Since we had to take time to do the left knee surgery, we've throttled back on some of the other things, just because you can't do the full activity. I can tell you he is progressing very well."

"He is repaired," Ash said. "[Will he be] 100 percent? We hope so."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke checked in with Hart this week and reported that his spirits are high.

"He goes to therapy five times a week, comes home and works out at home," Roenicke said. "He's just having an appointment where he thinks he'll be able to run. He said the [left] knee is coming along way faster than the first one. … It's hard. Rehab, it's brutal. It's not so much the physical load, it's just the mental, knowing these guys are playing the whole season and you're not there."

First base has been the Brewers' most tumultuous position all year, with Hart, Mat Gamel (ACL surgery) and Taylor Green (hip surgery) all lost before Opening Day. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez started on Opening Day, but he was released in early June when the Brewers acquired power-hitting Juan Francisco, who has been at best strikeout-prone and at worst a bust. He had seven hits and 27 strikeouts in his last 50 at-bats entering Thursday, when Francisco was not in the starting lineup against Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly.

Prospect Hunter Morris will be added to the 40-man roster this winter, but he did not distinguish himself enough at Triple-A Nashville to warrant a September callup.

All of those issues could create an opening for the return of Hart, the Brewers' longest-tenured player, having been drafted as a first baseman in 2000 and played most of his Milwaukee tenure as a right fielder. He moved back to first base after Gamel was injured in 2012 and hit 30 home runs.

The Brewers are very unlikely to extend Hart a qualifying offer, because he would accept and earn upwards of $14 million in 2014. Instead, if the club is convinced of Hart's health, a more likely scenario has the sides discussing an incentive-laden deal with a smaller guarantee. Hart will turn 32 in March.

Asked about the need to figure out first base, Ash said, "That is, I think, obvious."

Gennett making case for next year's second-base job

MIL@STL: Gennett makes tough stop to end the inning

ST. LOUIS -- While everyone around Scooter Gennett wonders how the Brewers will solve second base next season -- Rickie Weeks' experience and $11 million salary vs. Gennett's raw ability -- the 23-year-old is trying to simply focus on today.

"That's one of the things I've learned the last three or four years," Gennett said Thursday, when he batted second for the first time in his budding career. "Once you start trying to control things that you can't, that's when things start going downhill."

Gennett entered Thursday's series finale in St. Louis batting .402 and slugging .629 since Aug. 9, when he was recalled from Triple-A to replace an injured Weeks. That is the third-highest slugging percentage in Major League Baseball over that span.

Weeks, meanwhile, is finished for the season after undergoing surgery for a torn left hamstring. He batted .209/.306/.357 in 350 at-bats.

"I think everyone was convinced [Gennett could hit in the Major Leagues], because he's hit all along, but it was, 'How much has his defense improved?'" Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said. "It's been way above average, the range that he shows and the arm strength he has."

Weeks is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training. Both Gennett and Weeks are considered limited to second base.

"It's something that obviously will get resolved in some way," Gennett said. "As long as I know at one point there will be a decision, that's all I need to know. I need to focus on that, control what I can control and do my best job. …

"My big thing is I won't have any regrets. If I'm thinking about things I can't control, I don't want 10 years from now regretting trying to figure what's going to happen for next year. ... I just want to play hard, and I think the rest will take care of itself. I'm just really excited to go to Spring Training next year. I think it will be a different situation than this year."

Davis progressing, but misses sixth straight start

PIT@MIL: Davis belts a two-run homer in the second

ST. LOUIS -- Thursday brought more progress for Brewers outfielder Khris Davis, who tested his sore left wrist with three rounds of batting practice in the field and moved a big step closer to rejoining the starting lineup.

Still, he missed a sixth straight start.

"It's just mental," Davis said. "You just try to remember how it feels, that good feeling, that positive feeling. Just try to stay positive every day, because it's easy to get negative when you're fighting it."

Manager Ron Roenicke is eager to restore Davis' power to the starting lineup. He is batting .298 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 33 games since replacing the suspended Ryan Braun on the Brewers' roster.

Last call

Jean Segura's eighth-inning strikeout on Wednesday convinced Roenicke it was time for the slumping shortstop to take a day off.

"He swung at a fastball in the dirt yesterday in a 3-2 count. You know how hard that is to do?" Roenicke said. "If it's a sinkerballer, you can see it. But it's straight -- it's 98 [mph], but 'Seggy' doesn't do that."

• Asked whether he was considering using rookie Jimmy Nelson in more high-leverage situations to boost a sagging relief corps, Roenicke said, "I'm only opposed to doing it because I don't want him to have to rush to get loose, I don't want to bring him in in the middle of an inning."

• Brewers coaches met individually with Brewers GM Doug Melvin and Ash at the team hotel this week as part of the club's annual season-ending evaluations. They will meet as a group during the coming homestand.

"It's more on what's going on and what we can do better, and do we need to change anything in Spring Training, do we need to do anything in the season differently?" Roenicke said. "Kind of, 'What went wrong?' We know the injuries, we know what. But what else can we do to help?"