PHOENIX -- Brewers first baseman Corey Hart was still using crutches Wednesday, but said he was ahead of schedule in his return from right knee surgery and aiming to be back before the end of April.
His optimism was especially noteworthy considering one doctor predicted only weeks ago that Hart's season was over.
Hart stopped by Maryvale Baseball Park on Wednesday for a checkup with Dr. William Raasch and spoke at length about his rehab for the first time since undergoing surgery on Jan. 25 to repair a torn meniscus and smooth an imperfection in the joint surface. He hopes to be cleared for more intense rehab after an MRI scan scheduled for March 8.
Hart had hoped that MRI would come sooner, but was upbeat about his progress.
"Everything is coming faster than they thought it would come," he said.
The prognosis was much direr at one point last month.
Hart's knee had been an issue throughout all of 2012, beginning in Spring Training when he underwent surgery for two meniscal tears, and continuing early in the season when he banged the knee against the wall at Miller Park while attempting a sliding catch. Hart played through swelling in the joint all season, then rested in October and November while waiting for another injury -- painful plantar fascia in his right foot -- to heal.
When he tried to ramp up his training in December, Hart's right knee began to act up. Raasch, the Brewers' head physician, recommended a surgery to repair a smaller meniscal tear and debride the joint surface, and told Hart he'd be sidelined three to four months.
But that procedure was delayed a few days while Hart exercised his right to a second opinion from Dr. Richard Steadman, a Vail, Colo.-based specialist considered one of the world's foremost knee experts. Steadman recommended a much more invasive microfracture surgery.
"He said I was out for the year," Hart said. "I was like, 'That is not going to happen.'"
But over the next few days, Hart said, Steadman and Raasch conferred and opted for the original procedure. Afterward, the Brewers projected a four-month rehab.
Hart wants to be back sooner.
"[April] is not out of the question," he said. "I'm not necessarily a fast healer, I'm just a hard worker. I do everything and then I ask for extra stuff. I make sure I give myself [every] chance to come back quicker."