MILWAUKEE -- Brewers right fielder Corey Hart was in the Brewers' Opening Day lineup Friday for the first time in three years. Truth be told, he didn't expect this.
"I'm surprised to be here after having surgery," said Hart, who had a March 6 procedure to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. "I think I'm more excited than ever, because I'm able to help the team from Day 1."
Hart didn't have that option in 2011, when he started the season on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain. In 2010, Hart was on the Opening Day bench after a poor Spring Training led the Brewers to start veteran Jim Edmonds in right field.
On Friday, Hart was front and center in Opening Day festivities. After players were introduced along the foul lines, Joseph Attanasio, the father of the Brewers' principal owner, continued his tradition of singing the National Anthem.
Miss America Laura Kaeppeler wore her crown to throw the season's ceremonial first pitch, a strike to Brewers video coordinator Joe Crawford.
The Brewers have five players on their first Major League Opening Day roster: Norichika Aoki, Tim Dillard, Marco Estrada, Mat Gamel and Jonathan Lucroy.
"Opening Day, I don't care how many [years] you've been in baseball, it's always an exciting time because of all the work you put into getting to this point," manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's always an unknown. You can feel great about your team, and sometimes it doesn't work out, and vice versa. ... We're really comfortable and confident in what this team has a chance to do this year."
The Brewers are healthier at the start of this season than last, when they went on to win 96 regular-season games and the National League Central. Hart, starter Zack Greinke and catcher Jonathan Lucroy were among the players who began last season on the disabled list.
"If you compare last year's team at this point to this year's team, I think this year's team is better," principal owner Mark Attanasio said.