PITTSBURGH -- His left foot was taped tighter than an offensive lineman's, but Corey Hart was back in the Brewers' lineup on Thursday. The first baseman had missed eight games with a painful injury to his left arch, but he felt good enough in running drills Wednesday afternoon to play the first 4 1/2 innings of the team's 9-7 win Thursday against the Pirates. Hart announced his return Thursday by lining the first pitch he saw from Pittsburgh left-hander Wandy Rodriguez into center field for a single.
"It's going to hurt, but if I can handle it enough I can play as long as I can," he said. "We're never going to know if I can do it if I don't get out there. The pain is going to be there all the time, but I can do some things to adjust and make it not as bad." The trouble for Hart is not running in straight lines, but making turns around the bases. He worked on Wednesday at shuffling in such a way to minimize the pain. Hart said he hoped it was "good enough." "He was at a point yesterday when he was running that he thought he could do it, and Dan [Wright, the Brewers' head athletic trainer] was comfortable with it," manager Ron Roenicke said. "So we'll see how far we go with him. I won't go nine innings with him." Roenicke kept his word, removing Hart after a fifth-inning strikeout. Hart batted in his usual five-hole on Thursday and is hitting .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs. The danger, of course, is that Hart could worsen the injury, which is technically a partial tear to his plantar fascia -- tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. He said Thursday that he was unsure whether he'd need offseason surgery.