HOU@MIL: Hart slugs his second home run of the game

MILWAUKEE -- Corey Hart hit two more milestones Monday in his recovery from right knee surgery but will not be ready to come off the 60-day disabled list when his term expires on May 30, Brewers officials concede.

The 31-year-old first baseman, who hit 30 home runs last season as Milwaukee's five-hole hitter, had hoped to be back in the lineup long ago, but his rehabilitation from the Jan. 25 procedure has taken longer than expected. On Monday, before the Brewers opened a homestand, Hart ran on the field and took full batting practice for the first time this year.

"It's progress," he said. "It's still little by little but you continue to move forward rather than backwards. It's always positive, so hopefully I can get a lot done here this homestand. I'll get enough done where I can actually go on the road with the guys and then hopefully try to find a spot to go play [in a Minor League rehabilitation assignment]."

But that assignment is not expected to begin until a week or so into June, pushing Hart's return to the Major League lineup well into the month.

His running in the outfield on Monday was "awkward," Hart said, but "right now, my knee is stronger than it's been in a long time. Everything I'm doing now is almost like I have to relearn it. My quad has been shut down for so long that leg extensions, that's a chore just because my leg doesn't want to learn. I'll sit there and have to try to force it to move. It's not like my knee is hurting, it just doesn't want to do it. That's the challenging thing. It's awkward just because I'm trying to make my leg go where it's supposed to go. It's kind of frustrating. I'm making strides so I can't complain too much."

The Brewers could use his bat. Alex Gonzalez started the season at first base but has slipped into a reserve role and entered Monday batting .179. Yuniesky Betancourt, who took over, started the season scorching hot and still was tied with Ryan Braun for the team lead in home runs (eight) but entered Monday with only four hits in his last 43 at-bats.

With Hart rehabbing at Miller Park, the team went 2-8 on its recent road trip.

"Right now it's a little more frustrating because the team is not playing as well as we all want," Hart said. "That makes it a little more difficult, like, 'I've got to get back soon because I can get out there and help.' At the same time, I know I can't overdo it because I want to come back and stay on the field instead of having to worry about going back on the DL. Once I'm on the field I'll be 100 percent and ready to go for the rest of the time and not have to worry about that kind of stuff."

After weekend concert, Miller Park back to baseball

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers head groundskeeper Justin Scott and his staff took on the tall task of transforming Miller Park from a concert venue back to a ballpark in less than 48 hours this weekend.

Scott and his crew of 25, working alongside the stadium cleaning staff, had two days to recover from Saturday night's Kenny Chesney concert and prepare the field for Monday's 7:10 p.m. CT Brewers-Dodgers game.

"This is literally the tightest time frame you could have and pull that kind of thing off," Scott said while watching the Brewers take batting practice. "All in all, it took a lot of guys. That's the big take-home message: I've got a tremendous crew."

The process began about 15 minutes after the conclusion of Saturday's concert and lasted well into Monday. Chesney's crew started by taking down the massive 185-foot by 80-foot stage before Scott and his crew replaced about 3,000 square feet of sod in deep center field. The final steps included mowing the new sod and watering the infield.

It was a long weekend for Scott. He arrived at Miller Park at 4 p.m. Saturday and did not leave until 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.

"The stage area itself is really in pretty good shape," Scott said, noting the grass under the stage remains yellowed due to lack of sun. "It's safe and it's playable out there. It's not perfect but it'll play fine."

In less than two months Scott and his crew will face the same timetable when Paul McCartney plays a show at Miller Park on July 16, the night of the All-Star Game. The Brewers will have a post All-Star Game workout on July 18.

Brewers draw Dodgers' top arms in series

MILWAUKEE -- After a tough trip through the National League Central, the Brewers returned home Monday to face the Dodgers' top three starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw in the series opener, followed by Zack Greinke on Tuesday and Hyun-Jin Ryu on Wednesday.

Ryan Braun thinks Major League pitching is the best it has been since he debuted in 2007. Manager Ron Roenicke stopped short of so strong a declaration, but noted a vast improvement in the NL Central.

"I think in our division, this is as good as pitchers as I've seen," Roenicke said. "There's not anybody that you say, 'Oh, we're going to get this guy.' Everybody's numbers are all good."

Those numbers bear out his impression. By the time the Dodgers series is done, the Brewers will have played 20 games in May and faced only two opposing starters with ERAs above 4.00 -- the Reds' Bronson Arroyo on May 12 (4.30) and Cardinals rookie John Gast on Sunday (6.00 after one Major League start) -- and only two others with an ERA above 3.00 -- the Pirates' Wandy Rodriguez on May 15 (3.62) and Ryu (3.42).

Arroyo, Rodriguez and Gast wound up logging wins against the Brewers.

"There's better 'stuff' now than there's ever been," Roenicke said. "There's still mistakes being made; maybe the stuff is better and the command isn't as good. Every bullpen, everybody's coming out throwing 95 [mph]. I think people are drafting just good arms now instead of command guys, and taking a chance on that stuff developing into a command guy."

Last call

• Rickie Weeks' 4-for-9 lifetime mark against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw outweighed Jeff Bianchi's 4-for-9 performance in a pair of starts over the weekend in St. Louis.

Manager Ron Roenicke chose Weeks to start Monday's series opener at second base.

"We're trying to match up and see who matches up better at the different spots and this is one guy Rickie matches up well with," Roenicke said. "There are certain guys when I play Bianchi or play other people that I think match up well with, and some of their success is because that type of pitcher fits well."