SAN DIEGO -- Right fielder Corey Hart spent a significant amount of time during batting practice Wednesday taking grounders at first base, the most public sign of the Brewers moving on in the wake of Mat Gamel's significant knee injury.
As disappointing as the injury was for Gamel, it was equally challenging for the team, which was very encouraged by Gamel's first month following in Prince Fielder's footsteps. Now the Brewers must settle first base for the foreseeable future, while Gamel faces surgery for a torn ACL.
Travis Ishikawa will be the regular first baseman in the near term and utility man Brooks Conrad, who started at first base for Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, will be recalled in time for the Brewers' series opener Friday at San Francisco.
Options down the road include Hart, who said he would spend the next few days during batting practice reacquainting himself with his original position. The Brewers are deep in outfielders, so Hart could, in time, move to first base if Ishikawa does not work out.
"I might sneak in there a little bit, get a couple of starts here and there to see how it goes," said Hart, who wondered aloud of the first opportunity to start could come Saturday against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner. "I think it really depends on how comfortable I can be over there. ... If [Ishikawa] starts raking, then it might not be an issue. We all think he's obviously capable."
General manager Doug Melvin also instructed his staff to compile a list of players available in free agency or potentially available in trades. Asked about veteran free agent Derrek Lee, Melvin said vaguely, "He's one name out there."
In the longer term, the Brewers will face the same uncertainty in 2013 they carried into this season: Can Gamel be the guy at first base?
"At the end of the year, we're still [not] going to know who's our first baseman," Melvin said.
Ishikawa is a premier defensive player. He will be on familiar ground this weekend in San Francisco, where Ishikawa played his first 281 Major League games from 2006-10.
"I was hoping to get a start up there, but not like this," Ishikawa said.