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Hardy plays on as rumors swirl

Hardy plays on as rumors swirl

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy heard that the Mariners had picked up Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson from his usual source for trade rumors -- right fielder Corey Hart.

Both players realized the implications. One fewer team in the market for a shortstop. One more reason to believe Hardy will still be with the Brewers following Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

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"I try not to look at it and read all the stuff," said Hardy, a staple of trade rumors during the last calendar year. "My dad sometimes tells me, but he hasn't been on it as much lately. My brother has kind of taken over for him. And then there's Corey, who sees all of the stuff. I always hear it from Corey."

Hart has himself been the subject of rumors this year. One had him going to the Braves, and another to the Red Sox. The latter rumor was so unfounded that Boston general manager Theo Epstein called Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin to apologize that it hit the papers.

But Hardy has been the Brewers player most often mentioned in trade rumors for some time, and this week he heard a lot about Seattle. Hardy ran down the reasons it made sense: The Mariners were looking for a shortstop. The team's GM is Jack Zduriencik, who until last fall was Milwaukee's amateur scouting director and drafted Hardy in the second round in 2001. The Brewers, meanwhile, need pitching, and Seattle has a chip in left-hander (and Wisconsin native) Jarrod Washburn.

"That was one of the rumors I heard a little bit more than other ones," Hardy said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but it kind of made sense."

Now, with Wilson in Seattle -- he was traded there Wednesday in a seven-player deal -- it appears that the Brewers and Mariners have less of a match. FOXSports.com reported earlier in the day that the Brewers' awful start to July (7-16 after Tuesday's loss) would make Melvin less likely to deal for a two-month rental like Washburn, who is a free agent at season's end. Manager Ken Macha seemed to reinforce that idea during his conversation with reporters, when he said this:

"There's possibilities out there," Macha said. "Do I expect things to happen? I think Doug will only do something if he feels it will help our club both immediately and next year."

Hardy is viewed as available because Milwaukee has another shortstop, Alcides Escobar, hitting .302 at Triple-A Nashville with 37 stolen bases including two hits and a steal on Wednesday. Melvin has said, publicly, at least, that Escobar and fellow prospect Mat Gamel are off-limits in trade talks.

Even Escobar understands, apparently, that what a GM says in print doesn't always match what's happening behind the scenes.

"[Escobar] actually texted me the other night and asked, 'Who's getting traded?'" Hardy said. "I told him, 'I don't know.'"

Which brought up another story. Escobar and Hardy were tight in Spring Training, and they had a discussion about the future in which Hardy predicted that he would be moved to open a spot for the slick-fielding prospect. Escobar responded, "No, you're not getting traded for another six years." As Escobar walked away, he muttered something along the lines of, "You can play third base." That gave Hardy a good laugh.

Hardy was a National League All-Star in 2007 but has had a somewhat disappointing 2009, batting .235 entering Wednesday's game with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. He boosted the batting average by going 6-for-17 in the first five games of Milwaukee's homestand, and only two NL shortstops have more home runs -- Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki (19) and Florida's Hanley Ramirez (15).

Hardy has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency in the 2010-11 offseason. Escobar, meanwhile, has his full six-year allotment of Major League service time before he's free agent-eligible.

As long as he's in a Brewers uniform, Hardy figures the rumors will continue to swirl.

"For a while there, I was scared of it," Hardy said. "Now I realize more and more every year that it's a business, and there's nothing I can do about it, so it does me no good to worry about it. ... I can beat myself up worrying about it, and still have no control over it at all. If they want to trade me, it's on them."

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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