WASHINGTON -- Corey Hart came through his return to the Brewers' lineup on Thursday just fine, though he was not in the starting lineup for the series opener with the Nationals on Friday.
Hart returned Thursday from an eight-game absence due to an injury to his left arch, but manager Ron Roenicke wants to make sure the Brewers' first baseman is as healthy as possible for Nats left-hander Gio Gonzalez on Saturday. Hart played the first 4 1/2 innings of Thursday's 9-7 win over the Pirates before being pulled for Travis Ishikawa prior to the bottom of the fifth. He finished 1-for-3, hitting a line-drive single in the first.
Hart's return to Milwaukee's lineup is critical, as it boosts the power in the heart of the lineup with Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez at the three-hole and cleanup spots. In 138 games this season, Hart is batting .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs.
"I was happy with the outcome [on Thursday]," Hart said. "I'll take it easy, but I'll be in there for the next three [games]."
Roenicke did say he got several texts from Hart earlier on Friday trying to talk his way into the lineup, but with the Brewers making a furious push to challenge the Cardinals for the National League's final Wild Card spot, Hart is too valuable to play around with.
After the Cardinals lost to the Cubs earlier on Friday, the Brewers entered Friday's game with the Nats with a chance to climb just 1 1/2 games back.
"I explained it to him that Saturday's an important game, with a left-hander," Roenicke said, adding that Hart was available to pinch-hit Friday, if necessary. "If I play him five, six innings today and he comes up sore and he can't play tomorrow, it's probably not very smart.
"If he's fine after [Saturday], he'll probably play against the right-handers."
Hart's injury is technically a partial tear to the plantar fascia, the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. While running in a straight line hasn't been an issue, Hart said the most pain he feels is turning to cover first base on defense.
"I'm sitting there, waiting for the ball, all of a sudden it's hit and I've got to beat the guy and turn [for the throw], so that kind of hurts," Hart said. "The defense is still going to be tough, and I want to be comfortable late in the game having to do that."