Corey Hart takes outdoor batting practice, nearing return

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Brewers outfielder Corey Hart opened the season on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle and manager Ron Roenicke said at the time that there was no timetable for his return. Now, about two weeks later, that has changed.

From MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy comes word that Hart was able to take live batting practice in an outdoor setting Thursday for the first time since suffering his spring oblique injury. Hart took swings in indoor cages on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Brewers are hoping that the 29-year-old will be ready to begin playing in minor league rehab games this weekend — likely Sunday — and that he will feel well enough to return to the major league starting lineup on or around April 22.

“That will be nice to see,” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. “He’s going to do [outdoor batting practice] for a few days, and then if everything goes well, he’ll be ready to go out on a rehab assignment.”

Hart batted just .172/.221/.313 this spring across 68 plate appearances, but he’s coming off a career-best 2010 season that saw him slug 31 home runs against 102 RBI. He should do just fine here in 2011.

Blue Jays acquire Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates

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MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have acquired infielder Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations.

Ngoepe, 27, made his major league debut this past season. Overall, he hit .222/.323/.296 in 63 plate appearances. He mostly played second base, but also spent time at shortstop and third base.

Ngoepe is from South Africa. When he debuted on April 26, he became the second African-born player to play in the majors along with Al Cabrera of the 1913 Cardinals. He had spent parts of eight seasons in the minors prior to 2017.

In case you’re wondering, Ngoepe is pronounced “in-go-pay.”