Burned-out Hardy felt demotion coming

I just got off the phone with departing Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was optioned to Triple-A Nashville in a surprising move this morning and was looking forward to a few days away from baseball.

The Sounds are in Salt Lake City, so Hardy has until Friday to join the team back home in Nashville.

“Maybe I’ll come by to pick up my stuff tomorrow,” Hardy said. “I’m going to take today to relax a little bit.

“I think these next couple of days are going to be really nice. Just having three days off, that’s going to be exactly what I needed. Triple-A, whatever, I’ll go down there and do what I’m supposed to do, but I’m pretty excited about getting three days to rest.”

Was the roster move a surprise?

“I don’t know. I’ve kind of been feeling it,” Hardy said. “I’ve been feeling like all of the coaches have been staring at me and watching everything I do. It’s been uncomfortable. But it still surprises me a little bit. I think three days off would have been all I needed, and I’ve been going out there every single day and doing what they’ve asked me to do.”

Hardy conceded that he never approached manager Ken Macha and asked for a break.

“Who am I to tell Macha what the lineup should be and who should be playing?” Hardy said. “They’ve been putting me out there every day and I’ve been trying my hardest. It’s not like I haven’t been trying. I like to think of it as the equivalent of a golfer who is a five- or six handicap and they’re going out there for four straight months shooting in the 100s and they can’t figure it out.

“I think a golfer, after that, would take a week off and then come back and shoot in the 70s again. In baseball, you can’t do that. I think there’s different types of players. Some players, when they’re really struggling, they want to keep being out there to battle through it. Then, there are guys who feel they need a day or two off to slow things down. For me, I think that would have been nice.”

General manager Doug Melvin called Hardy on Wednesday morning with the news that he was heading back to the Minor Leagues for the first time since 2004. Hardy was installed as the Brewers’ everyday shortstop on Opening Day 2005.

He was a National League All-Star in 2007 and followed-up by batting a career-high .283 in 2008, but has slumped through most of a disappointing 2009 season. Hardy carried a sub-.200 batting average into May and was still down at .207 on June 15 before going on a relative hot streak. He batted .340 the rest of June, but since July 1 his average was .220.

Overall, Hardy is batting .229 this season with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs.

That wasn’t enough to hold off shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar, who was batting .298 with 42 stolen bases at Nashville.

“It’s a prolonged slump that’s lasted four months for me, and I haven’t
been able to slow it down,” Hardy said. “In the past, when I would have
a few bad games in a row, I would get a day off to slow the game down
and come back strong. It just hasn’t happened this year. A couple of
days off will be nice, and then I’ll go down [to the Minors] and do
what I need to do.”

Escobar wasn’t the only person headed to Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Brewers also designated Bill Hall for assignment and promoted outfielder Jason Bourgeois, and dismissed pitching coach Bill Castro and replaced him on an interim basis with Triple-A pitching coach Chris Bosio.

 

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