Results tagged ‘ J.J. Hardy ’

Slumping Hardy: 'The game's going 100 mph for me'

If Step 1 of breaking a slump is admitting you have a problem, then J.J. Hardy has better days ahead in May.

Hardy was out of the Brewers’ lineup Friday night and probably won’t play Saturday, either. He skipped batting practice, too, in an effort to take a mental break from the game that was not kind to him in April. Hardy finished April with no hits in his final 11 at-bats and one hit in his final 20 at-bats.

“I’m trying. Nothing’s happening,” Hardy said. “I feel like the game’s going 100 mph for me right now. I don’t think [a break] will hurt.”

Even when he has hit the baseball hard, someone has been on the other end of it. That happened in the second inning Thursday night, when D-backs shortstop Josh Wilson robbed Hardy of a hit with a highlight-worthy defensive play.

“If that ball gets through and I’m able to relax a little bit, it’s my first at-bat and who knows what happens?” Hardy said. “I’m just trying to battle through it. The more and more I’m not getting a hit, the more and more I feel like I’m pressing. The game just starts to go faster and faster. I’m having trouble slowing it down, I guess. I don’t know.”

Craig Counsell started in Hardy’s place at shortstop on Friday against Arizona right-hander Jon Garland, whom Hardy had never faced. He hasn’t faced Arizona’s Saturday starter, Dan Haren, either. Whether Hardy returns on Sunday against Yusmeiro Petit remains to be seen. Manager Ken Macha said only that Hardy would get “a couple of days” off.

Hardy has started slow before, but not like this. He batted .244 last April with one home run and eight RBIs and stayed cool in May, hitting .264 with one more home run and seven RBIs. By the end of the season and into the playoffs he was Milwaukee’s hottest hitter, finishing the regular season with a .283 average, 24 homers and 74 RBIs.

But this year, he seemed poised for a quick start after hitting a team-best .403 in Spring Training. Instead, he was installed as a run-producer in the five-hole and batted .156 in April including .083 with runners in scoring position (2-for-24). Hardy did hit three home runs and contributed seven RBIs.

“That’s the game,” he said. “You can go good, and then it turns around and you’ve totally forgot how to play the game. … In Spring Training, I didn’t think about one damn thing, and everything just kind of fell into place. I was seeing the ball great. Then the season starts, and I struggled a little bit the first couple of games, and it’s like, ‘Now what?'”

He admitted he’s having trouble making the necessary adjustments. Even the most casual fan can see that Hardy’s stance is way more open than it was in the past.

“I just heard that today,” Hardy said. “Mike Rivera told me, ‘Your stance is way open.’ I’m not trying to do that.” 

His hands are higher, too, but that began late last year and it felt comfortable for Hardy in the National League Division Series, when he batted .429. He’s trying to get them back down now, but when he goes back to look at his at-bats on video, they’re still way up.

He’s noticed that he’s not the only former All-Star off to a slow start. Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins hit .207 in April, and needed a hot finish to the month to get over the Mendoza Line. The Cubs’ Derrek Lee hit .189 with only one home run. Houston’s Lance Berkman batted .162.

Only one player with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title finished with a lower April average than Hardy. Cincinnati’s Edwin Encarnacion hit .127 before chipping a bone in his wrist. Besides his April 13 grand slam against the Brewers, Encarnacion had only two RBIs.

“It was the first month, and there are five more,” Hardy said he’s telling himself. “It has to turn around sometime. I’m waiting for it to start turning around so I don’t have to grind like this any more.”

Lineup: Weeks in, Hardy down

Second baseman Rickie Weeks said he suffered a mild concussion on Tuesday night when he was clipped by shortstop J.J. Hardy, but he went through a battery of tests this afternoon and was deemed able to play.

There was a significant change in the lineup, though. Hardy, who batted fifth in his first 12 starts this season, was moved down to the six-hole. Hardy enters the game hitting .125, and he was replaced in the five-hole by center fielder Mike Cameron, who is hitting .333 with a team-high four home runs.

The lineups:

BREWERS
Rickie Weeks  2B
Corey Hart  RF
Ryan Braun  LF
Prince Fielder  1B
Mike Cameron  CF
J.J. Hardy  SS
Craig Counsell  3B
Jason Kendall  C
Braden Looper RHP

PHILLIES
Jimmy Rollins  SS
Shane Victorino  CF
Chase Utley  2B
Ryan Howard  1B
Jason Werth  RF
Raul Ibanez  LF
Pedro Feliz  3B
Lou Marson  C
Joe Blanton  RHP

Weeks out; McGehee manning second

Second baseman Rickie Weeks may have been clipped by shortstop J.J. Hardy before both players hit the dirt on a funky play behind second base in the first inning, and Weeks has just been replaced in the game by Casey McGehee.

Weeks and Hardy converged on a Chase Utley ground ball, with Hardy ranging past second base to scoop up the baseball before tumbling in the dirt as Utley reached on an infield hit. Weeks was headed the opposite direction and he tumbled, too, but was slow to get up.

Weeks finished the inning in the field but was replaced by McGehee in the bottom of the second. 

Macha: Heart of the order will hit

Brewers manager Ken Macha insists he’s not worried that the heart of his batting order is in a collective, early-season slump. In fact, Macha found a silver lining.

“They’re gonna hit what they’re gonna hit,” Macha said. “That means they’re getting hot. So I’m not worried; I’m looking forward to them getting hot.”

They’re not there yet. Nos. 3-5 hitters Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy entered this series in Philadelphia hitting a combined .171 (22-for-129). No. 3 hitter Braun was batting .222 and had driven in just two runs outside of his three-run home run on Friday night. Cleanup hitter Fielder was batting .175, though four of his seven hits have gone for extra bases and he was tied for the team lead with seven RBIs. No. 5 hitter Hardy was really struggling, batting .114 (5-for-44) with a .130 on-base percentage.

Braun padded his stats — and gave the Brewers a short-lived lead — in the first inning Tuesday night with a solo home run against Phillies starter Jamie Moyer. Fielder was hit by a pitch before Hardy ended the inning with a fielder’s choice grounder.

Looking for answers about Hardy, Macha compared the shortstop’s spray chart from this season versus last. Macha was wondering if Hardy was pulling everything, but in fact the charts lined up.

“I’m content with J.J.,” Macha said. “He just needs to get some balls to fall in to get him going.”

Hardy out with back stiffness

Shortstop J.J. Hardy was scratched from the Brewers’ starting lineup Wednesday with mid-back stiffness, a change that wasn’t noticed in the press box until Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson popped out to shortstop for the second out of the first inning.

Craig Counsell, not Hardy, made that catch, and the team announced moments later that Counsell was batting second in the Brewers’ lineup. Right fielder Corey Hart dropped from second in the order to fifth.

That the switch went unnoticed at first was not altogether surprising. All Brewers players and coaches wore No. 42 on Wednesday as part of Jackie Robinson Day festivities across Major League Baseball.

Hardy receives regular treatment for a stiff back but it had not limited him at all this season. He had homered in each of his last two games and had driven in a run in four straight despite hitting just .156 for the young season.

Escobar will take grounders at short, second

Alcides Escobar was optioned to Triple-A Nashville this evening but he was feeling good about his camp, and about his chances of breaking back into the big leagues at some point this season.

To that end, the slick-fielding shortstop will take ground balls at short and at second base during his time in Nashville, a move to make him as versatile as possible in case an injury creates a need in Milwaukee. He once again declared himself ready for the Majors on Wednesday.

“I’m happy that I got all of Spring Training with the team,” Escobar said. “I’m going to be ready if something happens to a [Brewers] player.

“They’re sending me to Triple-A to play every day and work on my strike-zone [judgment], and I’m going to do that. I’m ready to play in the big leagues. I’m ready. But right now, J.J. Hardy is the shortstop.”

The Brewers were able to option Escobar because Craig Counsell, Hardy’s backup, has chosen to forgo surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. Counsell tested the joint in five straight games with no limitations. As long as he can tolerate the pain, he’ll continue to play. 

Skaalen: Crew's plate discipline 'why I'm sitting here right now'

Jim Skaalen got off a good line while talking about his new job as the Oakland A’s hitting coach. The A’s are well-known for their focus on pitch selection and on-base percentage, qualities that often eluded Brewers hitters under Skaalen’s watch. 

“All that stuff, believe it or not, was also stressed in Milwaukee,” Skaalen said Friday, before the Brewers and A’s squared off for the second time in three days. “It didn’t materialize as consistently as I liked, which is probably why I’m sitting here right now.”

He was sitting in Oakland’s dugout on Friday instead of Milwaukee’s mostly because of last September, when the Brewers slumped to a .227 team batting average and averaged 3.6 runs per game. In the first five months of the season, they batted .257 and averaged 4.8 runs per game.

“As disappointed and sad as I was to get the news [of his dismissal], I couldn’t be happier with the development and the progress of those guys over there,” Skaalen said. “The core of that team, I feel like I played some role in helping them get to where they are at. … I don’t know because I wasn’t told much, but I think that Doug [Melvin, Milwaukee’s general manager] just felt the need for them to hear somebody new.”

Does he have answers for Milwaukee’s team-wide September swoon?

“I don’t even have an answer for it other than most of the players just had a tough time from keeping from doing too much,” Skaalen said. “They wanted to get there [to the postseason]. … It happens. Try as I might, those kids were in the cage and I’m trying to refocus their mindset, get them through the last month, it was just difficult. It’s easy in the cage, but when you’re playing big game after big game, that’s just human nature. Thank goodness for Prince [Fielder] and J.J. [Hardy] did OK, and thank goodness for CC [Sabathia] and the pitching staff.”

 

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