Closer to returning, Hart's left foot injury improving

Closer to returning, Hart's left foot injury improving

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers first baseman Corey Hart has had no fun at all watching the team's recent hot streak from the bench.

The good news Friday was that he was closer to returning to the starting lineup. The bad news was that Hart was not cleared to play just yet, still recovering from a painful injury to the arch of his left foot.

"Let's hope [on Saturday] he can maybe help us, though I don't know if he'll be starting," manager Ron Roencike said. "If we can get him by the road trip, that would be great."

The Brewers begin a tough 10-game trip on Tuesday that takes them to Pittsburgh, Washington and Cincinnati. If Hart remains sidelined until the beginning of the road trip, he will have missed six starts.

Hart reported significant improvement over Thursday's off-day, and he was cleared Friday to run on the treadmill, take grounders at first base and take swings in the batting cage. Hart was wearing a custom foot insert designed to ease the pain in his foot caused by a partial rupture of the plantar fascia in his left arch.

"I hadn't swung on the field for three days, but it felt pretty good," Hart said. "If I wake up [Saturday] and there's nothing different, hopefully they'll let me play. Basically, it's just trial [and error]. It's not going to go away -- it's still going to be there. It's just how bad it hurts."

Sitting out hurts just as badly, considering the Brewers had won 18 of their last 23 games entering Friday, including a three-game sweep of the Braves with Hart on the bench. They were 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals on Friday afternoon in the race for the National League's second Wild Card spot.

"It's unbelievable," Hart said. "Everybody gave up on us, except for us."