Perfect Return for Hart

DES MOINES – The pitch lit up the radar gun at 95 mph, came off the bat at 99, and screamed back at Kevin Hart's head, striking him above his right ear. That was on June 18 at Principal Park. On Saturday, Hart returned to the same pitcher's mound he'd been left motionless on while pitching for Class AAA Iowa.

The right-hander struck out five over three perfect innings before being lifted after 42 pitches Saturday. Iowa went on to defeat Albuquerque, 9-3.

"It was a scary situation," Hart said, reflecting on the incident that had taken place just 10 days earlier. "I felt extremely lucky to come back in the timeframe that I did. To get back out there and just get some hitters out, it was a lot of fun for me."

Hart walked off the field on his own power after the incident, was diagnosed with a Grade-1 concussion and placed on the seven-day disabled list.

While he lay on the mound, Hart said he felt like he was going to black out but "just tried to stay awake."

His first words to teammates and coaches: "I should have thrown a changeup."

"I didn't say that because I really thought I should've thrown a changeup," Hart said. "I was just kind of messing around, wanting to make sure everyone knew I was OK and kind of lighten the mood because I saw everyone crowded around me. I just wanted to make sure everybody knew I was conscious and still myself a little bit."

Hart said he felt a little jumpy to start Saturday's game but refocused after falling behind against the leadoff hitter.

Previously, in his time off following the injury, Hart put the situation in perspective.

"I was like, ‘Man, I've probably thrown 600 innings in my life and that's never happened to me,'" he said. "You know, I've taken some off the shin or a little one-hopper here and there. But it's part of the game and you've just got to accept it. If you make better pitches, it doesn't happen."

Hart began the season in Chicago but gave up 13 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings and was sent down on May 4. Last September, he made eight relief appearances with Chicago, allowing just one run and seven hits over 11 innings.

In eight starts this season at Iowa, he has a 3.41 ERA.

"My main goal was to come down here and get better at all aspects of the game, but especially learning how to throw my fastball for strikes and get back to what I was doing last year," Hart said. "I felt like I did that [on Saturday]. I was pounding the zone, attacking the zone, jumping down hitters' throats, 0-1, 0-1, and I think that's kind of my game.

"I kind of got away from that a little bit. Especially when I was up there, I kind of got away from what I do best and was giving those guys a little bit too much credit," Hart added. "So my goal down here is to work on all my pitches, work on mixing and just work on attacking hitters and getting guys out as quickly as possible."

Despite pitching solely in relief in Chicago, Hart said he has no preference coming back as a starter or a reliever for the Cubs.

"If they need me to come in and fill some innings as a starter, or if they want me to go to the back-end of the bullpen or middle relief, I'm happy to do anything," he said.

"I would just like to be a part of a team that won a World Series," added Hart. "I think that would be a lot of fun. And in the long run I'd love to start, but now it's just kind of whatever they need me to do."

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