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With Hardy gone, Escobar era begins

With Hardy gone, Escobar era begins

MILWAUKEE -- The Alcides Escobar era began on Friday when incumbent Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy was traded to the Twins. Hardy thinks the kid is going to be just fine.

"He's going to do a lot of good things for Milwaukee," Hardy said. "We're different types of players, but he's a good one. He has more speed, one. Defensively, he's obviously a lot quicker and has a lot more range. Power, I think I've got him there, but he's going to grow. He's still young. He's an exciting player. He was fun to watch in September."

Escobar doesn't turn 23 until Dec. 16. He'll be joined in the Brewers' starting lineup by center fielder Carlos Gomez, who was acquired from the Twins for Hardy and won't be 24 until Dec. 4.

Both players are raw but promising. Especially Escobar, who entered last season considered the Brewers' co-top prospect with third baseman Mat Gamel and distanced himself with a solid year. Escobar batted .298 at Triple-A Nashville with 34 extra-base hits, 76 runs scored and 42 stolen bases, then hit .304 in 134 big-league at-bats for the Brewers after Hardy was demoted to the Minors in August.

Escobar, Gomez, right-hander Yovani Gallardo (who will turn 24 before next year's season opener), first baseman Prince Fielder (25), left fielder Ryan Braun (26 by Opening Day) will skew the Brewers back toward the young side next season.

"We've got younger players again. It's a transition that we'll probably have to make continually," said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who figures to have about $80 million to build his 2010 club. "It's no different than when we traded Lyle Overbay to make room for Prince Fielder. I told J.J. that when I talked to him on the phone. ... We're trading J.J. to make room for Escobar."

Hardy and Escobar had an interesting relationship, much friendlier than you might expect than between a big league incumbent and the prospect with an eye on his job.

"That was from the start," Hardy said. "I remember seeing him working out and I was just drawn to him. I watched him take ground balls, watched him run and it was like, dang, this kid is pretty good. I remember giving him equipment and kind of taking care of him, keeping an eye on him.

"This was all before I knew he was a shortstop. Maybe if I would have known, it would have been different. I wouldn't have helped him out as much."

He kids, he kids.

"I hope he does well," Hardy said. "I'm sure he will."

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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