Notes: Hardy recharges on bench

Notes: Hardy recharges on bench

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the third straight game, Brewers manager Ned Yost tabbed Bill Hall over rookie J.J. Hardy as the starting shortstop. With Milwaukee's offense struggling to put runs on the scoreboard, it's not just a move to give Hardy a break.

"I know that Billy is doing good and I know that I'm not," said Hardy. "It's not just days off. It's being benched."

It's a new experience for the 22-year-old, who rocketed through the Brewers Minor League system since being a second-round draft pick in 2001 and is considered the beginning of a wave of prospects expected to hit Milwaukee in the next few seasons. Hardy can't ever remember a 100-at-bat stretch without a home run. He also can't remember ever getting three days off.

"If our offense is going on all cylinders, it gives me the opportunity to play J.J.," Yost said. "The whole goal is to develop J.J. He's going to hit, and we see J.J. getting better offensively all the time, but right now we're struggling to score some runs. We have to go in a bit of a different direction. It's not contingent on how J.J. is doing; it's contingent on how the rest of the offense is going."

Hardy entered Saturday's game with a .156 batting average (15-for-96) with no homers and eight RBIs. Since a five-game hitting streak from May 6-11, Hardy was hitless in his next 13 at-bats. By his own admission, the wheels in his head are turning too fast.

"They've been turning ever since I got here," he said. "That's the hardest part about it. I've been going up to the plate thinking about a million things."

Always a dead-pull hitter in the Minors, Hardy says he has been "aiming" the ball toward right field this season. This weekend's downtime, Hardy says, might make for a fresh start.

"I've been seeing things a little more clearly," he said. "Maybe, in that way, these days off have been good. I'm watching more, thinking about stuff by myself during the game. I'm thinking, 'When have I ever been the kind of hitter who tries to hit line drives to right field? That's not me.'"

The other issue is his surgically-repaired left shoulder. Hardy suffered a dislocation last season and missed the second half after undergoing surgery. He feels 100 percent healthy now, but is still feeling the effects of the experience.

"Ever since surgery, my swing hasn't been the same," he said. "I don't know if that's mental or what. I think it's more mental. ... They say to stick with the approach that got you here, and I haven't done that at all."

For his part, Yost downplayed the decision to go with Hall. Asked if Hardy was still the "starting shortstop," Yost brushed off the query as "a literary ploy to try to disrupt morale."

"At this point of the year we don't have 'starting shortstops,'" Yost said. "Billy is starting tonight. Is Lyle [Overbay] the starting first baseman? He is today. Is he tomorrow? Maybe not."

Still on track: Ben Sheets participated in "extensive" fielding drills in Phoenix on Saturday and remains on track to start an extended Spring Training game on Monday. Sheets will participate in a light workout on Sunday before facing the Padres at Peoria Sports Complex. He has been on the disabled list all month with vestibular neuritis, an inner-ear condition.

Lineup notes: Yost gave Geoff Jenkins a one-day break from his right field duties by inserting him into the lineup as the designated hitter. Chris Magruder replaced Jenkins in right.

"If we weren't playing with the DH he wouldn't have the day off," Yost said. "But it's a chance to give him the break."

The skipper is mulling "a couple of options" for Sunday's game against Twins left-hander Johan Santana. The left-handed hitting Jenkins will be back in right field, but Yost may decide to rest Overbay, who entered play Saturday batting .356 against right-handers and .206 versus lefties. Wes Helms would probably start at first base in that instance.

Nashville notes: Rickie Weeks had one of Triple-A Nashville's four hits in Friday night's loss and has been tearing up the Pacific Coast League this month. Going into Saturday's games, the second baseman was tied for the Minor League lead with seven triples, was tied for fourth with his 25 extra-base hits and ranked 11th with a .652 slugging percentage. ... Nine of Nashville's first 22 wins -- more than 40 percent -- came in the team's final at-bat. ... Outfield prospect Corey Hart is turning his season around. Through Friday night he had a .333 average (14-for-42) while hitting safely in 10 of his last 12 games. The hot streak pushed his average from .170 to the current .218. ... Nashville, like Milwaukee, has struggled in the clutch. The Sounds went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in Friday's loss and were hitting .187 in the clutch this season.

On deck: Coming off perhaps the best start of his career, right-hander Wes Obermueller will make his fourth start on Sunday in place of Sheets. Last week in Washington, Obermueller retired the first 19 Nationals hitters he faced on the way to eight shutout innings and a Brewers win. He will face Santana, who went 2-0 against the Brewers last season.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.