PHOENIX -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart has already checked the Triple-A Nashville schedule in the event he begins the season on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, had hoped to play in Minor League games by Saturday, when he turns 30. It appears that will not happen.
Because he could lead off every inning of those games once he begins play, the possibility remains that Hart could come along quickly. But assuming he does not play a Cactus League game after Sunday, the Brewers could backdate an assignment to the 15-day disabled list to March 26. Hart would then be eligible for reinstatement April 10, the Brewers' fifth game of the season.
"I understand," Hart said. "They're going to want me to get at-bats. Last year, I rushed it and I struggled when I get back. I want to make sure I'm ready, too."
Besides the matter of at-bats, there is the physical strength of his knee, still healing from a procedure in which surgeons repaired three tears to Hart's meniscus. If he played this weekend and had to slide into second base, could he? Hart concedes he isn't sure.
Manager Ron Roenicke said Hart was scheduled to begin more intense running drills on Friday and called the Opening Day possibility, "still there."
If that changes, Hart was pleased to see that Nashville begins its season in warm-weather New Orleans on April 5, one day before the Brewers open at home against the Cardinals. After four games, the Sounds travel to Oklahoma City for four more.
"I don't want to miss anything, and there's still a chance [he'll be ready for Opening Day]," Hart said. "I know I can be physically ready then, no problem, but I have to be [baseball] ready to do all the things I need to do."
The Brewers will be similarly careful with right-hander Shaun Marcum, who appears back on track after missing camp time because of shoulder stiffness. He will pitch Sunday in one of the Brewers' split-squad games, but since Monday is the 26th, could subsequently shift to Minor League games to preserve the Brewers' option to backdate a DL assignment.