ARLINGTON, Texas — Corey Hart wanted a ball hit to him to take the edge off and calm the nerves.
He was making his first start in right field since July 21, 2012. Since then, he’d had multiple knee surgeries and missed an entire season while recovering.
But as the baseball gods are known to do, that first ball that found him wasn’t easy.
In the sixth inning, Alex Rios hit a rocket to right field. Hart’s first attempt to catch a fly ball in a game in almost two years came after a dead sprint as he retreated toward the wall. He made a solid half-jumping grab as if he’d been playing out there all season.
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“Nice easy one, right?” Hart said. “It actually probably helped. I was waiting for a nice easy one, but that one helped me relax more.”
Hart made three more catches in the outfield, including a sliding grab on a shallow fly ball. After a while, the instincts took over for Hart. He didn’t worry about his surgically-repaired knees.
“I think in spring I was a little apprehensive when I was out there because I didn’t know what would happen if I slid or had to go down to my knees,” he said. “As time has gone on, the knees haven’t been a problem. They’ve gotten stronger. I’ve actually been able to run faster than I thought I would.”
The start for Hart in the outfield was a bit of a surprise. Manager Lloyd McClendon had said a few days ago that Hart wouldn’t be playing in the outfield anytime soon.
However, Hart went to McClendon and told him he felt ready to play in the field. He also has been fighting a stiff throwing forearm and elbow.
With McClendon wanting to get Robinson Cano a “rest” as designated hitter Thursday, Hart pushed to play in the outfield.
“My arm obviously has some issues still,” he said. “But you have to start somewhere. So I’ll go out there and see what happens. It gives Robbie a break.”
Choi suspended for 50 games
Major League Baseball announced that Mariners Class AAA first baseman Ji-Man Choi has been suspended 50 games for testing positive for methandienone, a performance-enhancing substance. Choi was hitting .394 with a homer and five RBI in 10 games with Tacoma. Choi will be placed on the restricted list, which frees up a spot on the 40-man roster.
“A banned substance was detected in my urine sample,” Choi said in a statement to the MLB players’ union. “I do not know what I could have taken that caused me to test positive. I have not and never would knowingly use anything illegal to enhance my performance.”