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Hall searches for season-swoon salve

Hall searches for season-swoon salve

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers infielder Bill Hall emerged from a closed-door meeting with his bosses on Saturday and insisted that he hasn't given up on turning around his dismal 2009 season.

"I still consider myself the best third baseman in the league," Hall said.

He'll get another chance on Sunday, when the Brewers mark the season's unofficial midpoint against left-hander Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Macha said he intends to start Hall at third base in Milwaukee's final game before Major League Baseball's All-Star break, which will be broadcast nationally on TBS with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez on the call.

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Hall, who enters the first-half finale hitting .198, would not say much about his Saturday afternoon sit-down with general manager Doug Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash and manager Ken Macha. Asked what they talked about, Macha was also mum.

Hall was clear on two points: He has not asked to be moved out of Milwaukee, and the Brewers have not asked him to go to the Minor Leagues. Because he has more than five years of service time, Hall owns the right to refuse such an assignment.

"It wasn't a bad meeting, it wasn't a good meeting. It was just a meeting," Hall said. "We talked about baseball. It was just a discussion."

Hall has had a first half to forget. He began the year as Milwaukee's starting third baseman, but has fallen essentially to third on the depth chart by batting .198 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. He started 23 of the Brewers' first 26 games, but since then has made just 25 starts in 61 games, batting .124.

Casey McGehee and rookie Mat Gamel have handled most of the starts since then, with Hall relegated to starting against left-handers. Now, even those numbers are on the decline; Hall hit .306 against southpaws last season, but this year he's hitting .231.

"There's kind of mixed feelings, I guess," Hall said. "Obviously, I haven't played well, but I'm not getting to play very often, either. The lefties I'm facing aren't exactly easy. [The Mets' Johan] Santana. [The Giants' Barry] Zito had been dealing. [The Cubs' Ted] Lilly is an All-Star. When you don't get any other at-bats during the week, it's tough going out there to face guys like that and try to get some hits."

Make no mistake: Hall does not see his production as acceptable.

"I have to figure something out," Hall said, his eyes reddening, "some way to fight through that and try to be productive when I do get a chance to play.

"I'm here," he added. "I'm working every day, I'm keeping my mouth shut. I have to find a way to produce when I get in there."

Hall's decline is in its third season. He was the Brewers' club MVP in 2006, when he filled in for an injured J.J. Hardy at shortstop and batted .270, leading the Brewers with 35 home runs. That season earned Hall a four-year, $24 million contract that bought out his arbitration years and one season of free agency.

More than a year remains on that deal. Hall is making $6.8 million this season and is due $8.4 million in 2010. If the Brewers release Hall, they would owe him the remainder of that salary.

Hall does have value off the bench, because he is a quality defender at second base, third base and shortstop and can also play the outfield if needed. But Hall, the longest-tenured player in the organization (he was the Brewers' sixth-round Draft pick in 1998) isn't sure where he fits on the team at the moment.

"I'm still trying to do things to help this team win," he said.

Pitching matchup
MIL: RHP Yovani Gallardo (8-6, 2.95)
The Brewers opted to have Gallardo miss a four-game series against the Cubs last week so he could get one extra start before the All-Star break. Gallardo put up All-Star numbers in the first half of the season, but missed the cut for the Midsummer Classic and then struggled against the Cardinals in his start on Tuesday (four runs on six hits including a pair of homers in five innings). The Dodgers are the only National League opponent Gallardo has yet to face.

LAD: LHP Clayton Kershaw (6-5, 3.27)
Kershaw kept his roll intact with six scoreless innings against the Mets on Tuesday. The left-hander has now allowed only two earned runs in the past 29 2/3 innings covering five starts. He has won three of those, and the Dodgers have won them all. Kershaw struck out seven with two walks, showing the Mets a dazzling breaking ball along with his 94-mph fastball. He is also 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his past four road starts after going 0-3 with a 9.47 ERA in his first four road starts.

Tidbits
Right fielder Corey Hart missed a fourth straight start on Saturday because of a bruised left foot, the result of a foul ball near the end of his three-hit game on Tuesday. Hart said he felt better running in a straight line on Saturday, but still isn't comfortable changing directions. "If I had to score from first [base] on a double, I don't know if I could do it," Hart said. Hart pinch-hit in the eighth inning Saturday, flying out to right field, and remained in the game to play right field in the ninth. Macha wants Hart to play on Sunday if he is able. ... Ash said the reports were very promising after right-hander Dave Bush's first Minor League rehabilitation start on Friday for Class A Wisconsin. Brewers farm director Reid Nichols was on hand and reported that Bush "feels terrific," Ash said. Bush will start again for Double-A Huntsville on Wednesday before rejoining Milwaukee's rotation. ... Speaking of the rotation, Macha announced his intentions for the first week after the All-Star break. Braden Looper will start the second-half opener on Thursday in Cincinnati, followed by Jeff Suppan on Friday. Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra will handle the final two games of that four-game series, though their order was yet to be determined. Then Bush is scheduled to pitch on July 20 in the opener of a three-game series at Pittsburgh. ... Hart is the honorary chairperson for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin's 25th anniversary party at Miller Park on Sunday. He will make a $10,000 donation to the organization, and more than 2,000 guests will be on hand, including six-year-old Sam, who will tour the clubhouse with Hart before taking the field with his family and fulfilling his wish of singing the National Anthem.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS Wisconsin, TBS

On radio
• WTMJ 620

Up next
• Monday-Wednesday: All-Star break
• Thursday: Brewers (Braden Looper, 7-4, 4.94) at Reds (Homer Bailey, 1-0, 5.16), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Friday: Brewers (Jeff Suppan, 5-6, 4.70) at Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 5-8, 3.89)
• Saturday: Brewers (TBD) at Reds (Aaron Harang, 5-8, 3.89)

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

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