Hart still hoping to be ready for Opening Day
Crew right fielder takes BP, eyes Minors game on Friday
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Corey Hart took batting practice on the field for the first time Monday and still hopes to be the Brewers' Opening Day right fielder.Hart, who had cartilage repaired in his right knee on March 6, said he is aiming to begin playing Minor League games on Friday. Those games are flexible, so Hart could lead off every inning and begin compiling the plate appearances he needs to be ready for the season opener. "If I can get in a game by Friday, I think I would have plenty of at-bats for Opening Day," Hart said. "Everything is accelerating. I think we have to push it and see if I can actually get in a game." The first step was taking three rounds of batting practice on Monday. "Big step," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I'm surprised how fast he's coming along." Tuesday will mark two weeks since Hart's surgery. Doctors scoped the knee to repair three tears on Hart's meniscus. The true test will be defense and baserunning, Hart said. He was not sure whether he would play a few innings in the outfield from the start of his Minor League assignment, or whether he would just hit. If Hart requires a stint on the disabled list to start the season, the Brewers could backdate the assignment to March 26, assuming he does not play in a Cactus League game after the 25th. In that event, he would be eligible to play the team's fifth regular-season game.
Axford in no rush to resolve extension talks
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brewers closer John Axford agreed with the characterization of a Sunday meeting between his agent and the team as "a conversation," and said there's no need for either side to rush toward a contract extension."If conversations keep going [into the regular season], then they keep going," Axford said. "I'm not going to be bothered by it." Axford, 29 on April 1 and coming off a club-record 46 saves, is already signed for 2012. He will be arbitration-eligible after the season as a Super Two player, and thus is Brewers property through the end of 2016. But the Brewers and Axford's agent, Dan Horwits of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, are engaged in conversations about a long-term deal that would give the club cost-certainty and Axford a lifetime of financial security.
The Brewers have struck similar deals in the past, sometimes buying out at least one year of free agency. In Axford's case, that would require at least a five-year commitment.The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday that Horwits had met in person with Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash. Axford said Horwits would probably remain in Phoenix for most of the remainder of Spring Training, further reason, Axford said, not to rush talks. Axford is somewhat unique in saying he does not mind a contractual issue stretching into the season. He's also unique in admitting that he'll seek play-by-play updates from Horwits as talks progress. "I like to be involved as much as I can," Axford said. "I've talked to Gord quite a bit already. I think it's important that he knows all I want to accomplish in the baseball world and outside of baseball." Asked whether he had a gut feeling about the likelihood of a long-term deal, Axford said, "I honestly don't know. I do feel I'm confident in my abilities, so whatever happens, I'm going to have a good year."
Prospect Thornburg is latest cut by Brewers
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Pitching prospect Tyler Thornburg on Monday became the 10th player in 24 hours to pack his bags and depart the Brewers' big league camp. Thornburg, a non-roster invitee who is the team's fourth-ranked prospect, was returned to the club's Minor League complex.Nine other players had left the day before, leading to some rearranging in Maryvale Baseball Park's Major League clubhouse. Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez and Norichika Aoki all moved their lockers from a crowded corner to new real estate made available across the room. Manager Ron Roenicke figures the deep cuts will produce a more subtle change, too. "I think the players start to realize that we're getting a little closer," said Roenicke, whose Brewers begin their season against the Cardinals on April 6. "You start getting the group that is going to be with us when we start our season." Roenicke has not been pleased with some of the Brewers' Cactus League play lately. He hopes that changes as regulars begin to play more. Ramirez and Gonzalez have already requested increased workloads. "We're going to have to start getting after it a little bit better," Roenicke said.
Manager Ron Roenicke said left-hander Zach Braddock was scratched from his scheduled appearance against the Rangers on Monday because of a right quadriceps or groin strain. That new setback came a day after Braddock did not dress with the rest of the pitchers for a workout at Maryvale Baseball Park for reasons unrelated to an injury. Roenicke called both issues minor ones and counts Braddock among the candidates for a spot in the bullpen. Braddock sat out the second half of last season to be treated for a sleep disorder.