- Associated Press - Monday, August 2, 2010

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Corey Hart now has a long-term future with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers announced Monday that they have signed the hot-hitting right fielder to a contract extension through the 2013 season, rewarding him for a turnaround season that included a trip to the All-Star Game.

It was a somewhat surprising turn of events, given how often Hart was the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks. The Brewers listened to offers but nothing came together. And even before non-waiver trade deadline arrived, assistant general manager Gord Ash and agent Jeff Berry had been working on a deal.

“When Corey reached out and said he wanted to stay here, I told Gord to go see what they’re looking for,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said.

The 28-year-old Hart is batting .288 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs in 92 games this season, a sharp rebound for a player whose production had dipped since the middle of the 2008 season. He also had a wretched spring training performance.

Hart now appears to have a much clearer view of his future after the Brewers bought out a year of arbitration and two years of potential free agency. Terms of the deal were not disclosed for Hart, who won a $4.8 million arbitration case going into this season.

The Brewers have also given contract extensions to Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo, and Melvin said Monday that the team has had discussions regarding a new deal for second baseman Rickie Weeks.

It doesn’t sound like anything is in the works for Prince Fielder, who is a little more than a year away from free agency and is represented by Scott Boras.

“It takes two sides to make a deal in that regard,” Melvin said.

For Hart, the sudden shot of stability is a marked change in what has been a productive but tumultuous year.

In February, Hart became the first player to go to arbitration in Melvin’s tenure with the Brewers. He was awarded a raise from $3.25 million to $4.8 million, instead of the Brewers‘ offer of $4.15 million.

Melvin said Monday that he called Hart right after the decision and challenged him to prove that he was worth the money.

“I don’t think I congratulated him,” Melvin quipped.

The proof would come, but not right away.

After struggling late in the 2008 season and for most of 2009, Hart had a disappointing spring training. He bristled when he wasn’t in the team’s starting lineup on opening day.

“I got out of a meeting late in the spring with the front office and those guys and they were panicking because I had a bad spring,” Hart said last month. “But I wasn’t really thinking about it, I assumed I would be the right fielder and then I realized, ‘These guys don’t like me right now.’”

They certainly do now.

Melvin said he believes this year’s production is an accurate representation of Hart’s ability.

“I think last year was probably more of an aberration, if you look at what he’s done,” Melvin said.

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