Brewers Shake Up Roster, Fire Pitching Coach
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The slumping Milwaukee Brewers sent former All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy to the minors Wednesday, designated third baseman Bill Hall for assignment and fired their pitching coach.
The shakeup will give top prospect, Alcides Escobar, a chance to show he's the shortstop of the future and a potential leadoff man the club sorely lacks. He's batting .298 with four homers, 34 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 109 games.
General manager Doug Melvin said repeatedly that he had no plans to deal Escobar at this year's trade deadline, which effectively took the Brewers out of the running for any top starting pitcher. That appears to have cost Milwaukee any chance of making a return trip to the postseason after last year's NL wild card run.
The Brewers, who have lost 23 of 35 since July 1, are 55-57 and came into Wednesday 6 1/2 games out of the NL Central lead after entering last month up two games in the division.
Hardy, an All-Star in 2007, has been mired in a season-long slump, batting .229 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs. He will go to Triple-A Nashville.
The Brewers will eat about $11 million in salary to Hall, who was designated for assignment.
He is owed $2,006,557 from the remainder of his $6.8 million salary this year, $8.4 million next season and a $500,000 buyout of a $9.25 million club option for 2011.
Hall has struggled ever since hitting 35 homers in 2006. Hitting just .201 with six homers and 24 RBIs in a limited role this year, he told The Associated Press he needed some time before he wanted to talk.
His agent, Terry Bross, said he was trying to sort out the details.
"Obviously he took it hard," Bross said. "He's only been a Brewer, he doesn't know anything but being a Brewer. His spirits aren't great right now."
Hall hit .270 with 35 homers and 85 RBIs in 2006, leading to his new deal, but his numbers went steadily down in 2007 and 2008 and he became increasingly frustrated.
New manager Ken Macha talked often in spring training about getting Hall back on track, but Hall kept tinkering with his swing and finally agreed to go to the minors July 30 for more playing time. He was recalled just three days later when right fielder Corey Hart needed an appendectomy.
Hall will be replaced by speedy outfielder Jason Bourgeois, hitting .316 with 36 stolen bases in 105 games at Nashville.
The pitching coach, Bill Castro, had been with the organization the last 18 years, including 17 as bullpen coach. He'll be replaced by Triple-A pitching coach Chris Bosio.
"We appreciate and admire the dedication and tireless work ethic put forth by Bill Castro over the last 18 seasons," Melvin said in a statement. "A move like this is never easy to make, especially given Bill's longevity with the organization and considering how hard he worked to reach this position."
Milwaukee's pitching staff has imploded with injuries on top of the free agent departures of Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia from last season's postseason run.
The Brewers are first in the majors in homers allowed (151) and 27th in the majors in ERA (4.84), ahead of only the Nationals, Orioles and Indians. The starting rotation has a 5.16 ERA, worst in the National League, with Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan on the disabled list.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)