Posts Tagged ‘J.J. Hardy’

Hardy’s blast makes winner of Britton

August 22, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Had it not been for a fan wearing a Joe Mauer jersey, J.J. Hardy likely would have been out, and Twins starter Carl Pavano could have gotten out of the inning with the game still tied.

Hardy got a second chance, instead, and he took advantage of it, crushing a 2-2 fastball from Pavano to left for a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning of a 4-1 Orioles win over the Twins on Monday night at Target Field.

“Was it a Mauer fan?” Hardy asked. “Somebody was saying he was wearing a Hardy jersey.”

Hardy’s solo home run, his 24th of the season, made for a happy homecoming for the former Twins shortstop and helped lefty Zach Britton and the Orioles pick up the much-needed victory.

Baltimore snapped a five-game losing streak and Britton snapped a five-decision skid of his own, earning his first win since June 8 against Oakland.

“I think it was bigger for the team, more so than me,” Britton said. “Obviously it’s good to get the win, but I think we needed it. The way we played in Anaheim, to be able to come out and get the first win, the first day here, I think it sets the tone for the next three games.”

Britton had some long innings — he allowed at least one baserunner in each of his five frames — and saw his pitch count rise to 98, but he was otherwise solid in his first start since Aug. 4.

After going on the disabled list Aug. 5 with a left shoulder strain, Britton was activated before the game and went five innings, allowing one run on six hits and four walks with four strikeouts.

“It’s just one of those days, I’m so excited to be back and I’m overthrowing everything,” Britton said. “I didn’t really have great command, so my mindset was like, ‘Here it is.’ I’m going to make them beat me with my stuff. I’m going to throw it over the plate because I know I can’t hit corners right now.”

Britton got big outs to end the third and fifth innings, both of which came with Jim Thome at the plate and runners in scoring position.

In the third, with a run already having scored, Britton walked consecutive batters to load the bases for Thome. Britton threw a 1-1 fastball and Thome ripped it to left, but it stayed in the park and was caught for the final out.

“It was big,” Britton said. “Any time you can get out of those situations — especially with a close game, and especially coming back my first day, having some bad outings recently — to be able to get out of there where I haven’t been able to in the past was pretty big.”

Britton then struck Thome out looking, stranding a pair of runners in the fifth.

“He was right at the limit there and he was going to be real mad at having to come out at 4 2/3 if he walked Thome there,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But he made a big pitch there to get out of it, and I’m proud of him.”

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters added another solo blast in the sixth, his 13th of the year, and Nick Markakis drove in Hardy from first with a one-out double in the seventh for a final insurance run.

The Twins scored their only run off Britton in the third when Ben Revere singled with one out and later came around on a Mauer groundout.

Revere made a highlight-reel grab to end the seventh when he raced back to make a leaping, over-the-shoulder catch at the wall in center field, robbing Vladimir Guerrero of an extra-base hit and keeping a run off the board.

“It was unbelievable,” Hardy said. “That was as good as Adam Jones’ catch in Seattle.”

Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas relieved Britton to start the sixth, and retired the first five Twins he faced. Jakubauskas combined with lefty Michael Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg to hold the Twins scoreless with just two hits over the final four innings.

“The kid threw the ball very well against us,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected in the eighth for arguing balls and strikes. “Their bullpen came in and changed speeds and threw some curveballs. I think at one point I looked up and saw we had eight guys left on base, and that tells you the whole story.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hardy fondly remembers brief stint with Twins

August 22, 2011 Comments off
MINNEAPOLIS — J.J. Hardy said he never expected to be traded by the Twins until reporters brought it up to himas he was cleaning out his locker at the end of last year.

It was not until then that he realized it was a definite possibility. But when the trade did happen, Hardy still was not happy about it.

“When I left here, I was mad. I enjoyed my time here, I made a lot of friends,” Hardy said before Monday’s opener against the Twins at Target Field. “It felt like a slap in the face a little bit to me at the time. I miss all these guys, still, but I definitely love it in Baltimore.”

The trade has worked out much better so far for Hardy and the Orioles than it has for the Twins. The shortstop is enjoying a bounce-back season, hitting .268 with 23 home runs and 59 RBIs in 94 games after just six homers and 38 RBIs over 101 games in his one injury-shortened season with Minnesota.

Hardy signed a three-year extension with the Orioles last month, ensuring he’ll remain in Baltimore for the near future.

The biggest difference in his success, Hardy said, has been health. While he did miss a month with an oblique strain, Hardy has not had to deal with the wrist issues that plagued him throughout the 2010 season.

“My wrist really bothered me, and it affected the way I swung the bat,” Hardy said. “This year, being healthy, it’s allowed me to do what I feel like I’m capable of.

“The wrist, it’s a big part of the swing.”

Questions about his ability to stay healthy played a role in the Twins’ decision to trade Hardy to the Orioles in the offseason.

But with Hardy being healthy for the most part this year, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was not surprised by Hardy’s production.

“He’s had it in the past. Last year he was just beat up with us with numerous different injuries,” Gardenhire said. “He’s put up pretty good numbers in the past and that’s why we signed him. But last year, injuries beat him up with us.”

This week marks the first “homecoming” type series for Hardy, who did not make the trip with the Twins to Milwaukee — where he spent his first five big league seasons — last year because he was on the disabled list at the time.

Hardy said he’s been following what the Twins have been doing, and the performances of his closer friends on the team in particular. He also said he was happy to be back at Target Field and see so many familiar faces.

“I think it’d be a little different in Milwaukee, but we’ll see tonight how it is,” said Hardy, who was not sure what to expect from Twins fans.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he had no concerns about Hardy trying a little too hard to perform well against his former team and in front of Twins fans.

“J.J.’s not that vindictive. J.J. is as good a human being as you’ll find,” Showalter said. “But he’s competitive. … It’s not something that’s a topic of conversation with him, in the advanced meeting there was none of that. In fact, he was real positive on their organization and their players.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Playoff return highlights 2000s turnaround

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Along with the turn of the century and the start of a new millennium, the 2000s marked a new era of Brewers baseball, one that included a playoff appearance.

It began in 2001 with the opening of Miller Park, the Brewers’ new state-of-the-art, $400 million home. The changes continued in 2002, when Doug Melvin was named general manager of the club. In 2004, the Brewers had new ownership, as Mark Attanasio took over the club from Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.

All that set the stage for the team’s return to the playoffs, 26 years after losing the 1982 World Series.

Brewers alumni Geoff Jenkins and Bob Wickman are scheduled to participate Friday in a pregame autograph session to celebrate the 2000s as part of the Brewers’ 40th Anniversary season. On Sunday, all fans will receive a collectible Brewers Bobble Head doll, featuring CC Sabathia securing the final out of the regular-season finale, playoff-clinching game in 2008, compliments of Palermo’s Pizza and Piggly Wiggly.

Inaugural Season
After a one-year delay due to a fatal crane accident, Miller Park finally opened its doors to the public on April 6, 2001. Among those in attendance were President George W. Bush and Selig, both of whom threw out ceremonial first pitches.

With his 435-foot home run in the bottom of the eighth, first baseman Richie Sexson sent the crowd of 42,024 home happy, as the Brewers secured the first win at Miller Park, 5-4, over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Brewers’ new ballpark got rave reviews, to say the least.

“There’s no comparison,” said former Brewers infielder Jim Gantner. “This is an awesome building and a great place to play. You miss County Stadium, but when you see this, you forget about it real quick.”

“I did play in County Stadium and know what it was like to play there,” Sexson said. “This is definitely 10 times better than County Stadium.”

While much of the credit for getting the ballpark built goes to Selig, and deservedly so, the Milwaukee native, along with his daughter, credited the fans on Opening Day 2001.

“There are many people that played a role in building this magnificent park,” Selig told the fans. “But none are greater than all of you.”

“You’re the best fans in the world,” added then-team president Wendy Selig-Prieb. “Enjoy this wonderful ballpark. You deserve it.”

In their first season playing at Miller Park, the Brewers had high hopes, but weren’t any better than previous seasons. In fact, they were worse, finishing 2001 in fourth place in the National League Central with a 68-94 record as injuries decimated the team in the second half.

One year later, the ballpark, with its unique fan-shaped roof, was host to the first 100-loss season in Brewers history, as the Crew finished 56-106, good for last in the division. With that came more changes for the Brewers, this time in the front office.

Melvin gets a second chance
In April 2002, the Brewers fired manager Davey Lopes after just 15 games as Milwaukee skidded out to a 3-12 record in Lopes’ third season at the helm. Five months later, general manager Dean Taylor was cut loose as well, as the Brewers shook up their front office.

Doug Melvin was tabbed for the job, given a second chance to show what he could do running a Major League club. Melvin, the former Texas Rangers general manager who led that franchise to three division titles in four years during the 1990s, was named the eighth general manager in Brewers history on Sept. 25, 2002.

“I don’t believe in rebuilding plans,” Melvin said in a spirited press conference. “If there was a three-year plan, I would wait and buy a ticket in, what, 2005? I don’t believe in that, I want people to be a part of this process to get to where we want to go.

“We’ll enjoy it a lot more if we do it together.”

Melvin brought in former Jays general manager Gord Ash as his assistant GM and hired manager Ned Yost, who brought along with him a new coaching staff. But Melvin’s best move in his first days as general manager now appears to have been keeping amateur scouting director Jack Zduriencik in place.

Under Zduriencik, the Brewers put together some of the best Drafts in club history, restocking their system with top-level talent, and building one of the best cores of young players in the Major Leagues.

Among those draft during Zduriencik’s tenure are former first-round picks Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, staff ace Yovani Gallardo, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

As well as building from within, one of Melvin’s best moves as general manager came in 2008, when he traded highly rated prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Zach Jackson to the Indians for Sabathia, who would help carry the Brewers to the Wild Card.

New Ownership
Along with Melvin, Ash and Yost, the organization brought in another new face in 2004, as Mark Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment banker and New York native, took over the club from the previous ownership group, which included Selig-Prieb.

When introduced at a news conference on Oct. 4, 2004, as the Brewers’ owner-elect, Attanasio said he was “up to the challenge” of turning around the ballclub. He also admitted he had dreamed as a child of owning a Major League baseball club.

“As a kid, I lived, breathed and died with the Yankees forever,” Attanasio said. “Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a curveball, I gave up dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and when I got a little older thought maybe one day I could own a team.”

One of Attanasio’s biggest impacts upon taking over as the team’s principal owner was a commitment to raising the payroll to make the Brewers more competitive, despite playing in the smallest market in baseball.

After the payroll dipped as low as $27.5 million in 2004, it was raised to $39.9 million in Attanasio’s first season as owner. A year later, the Brewers’ payroll was up to $57.6 million, and by Opening Day 2007, it reached $71 million. When the Brewers reached the playoffs in 2008, the payroll was up to $80.9 million, and in 2010, the Opening Day payroll was up to $90.4 million.

Even with the financial commitment of Attanasio’s ownership group, he acknowledged in his first news conference at Miller Park that he had a lot to do to match the legacy of the Selig family in Milwaukee.

“The Attanasio family feels it has big shoes to fill here,” Attanasio said. “But that being said, we know that we can be the stewards of baseball in Milwaukee for the next 35 years.”

With Melvin, Ash, Yost and Attanasio in place, the Brewers were just a few years away from ending their playoff drought.

The Wait Is Over
When the Brewers returned from St. Louis in 1982 having lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, no one could have guessed it would take 26 years for the club to return to the playoffs. After all, they were expected to be back the following season.

But time after time, the Brewers’ best ballclubs came up short in 1983, ’88, ’91 and ’92. Even in ’07, when the Brewers led the division for much of the season, they came up just two games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Finally, in 2008, it was the Brewers’ turn.

Milwaukee entered the 2008 campaign with high expectations after the ’07 season saw the Brewers post their first winning record since ’92. In an effort to bolster their playoff hopes, Melvin brought in Sabathia just before the All-Star break on July 7. Sabathia was so dominant over the final three months of the season for the Crew that he even garnered a few votes for the NL Cy Young Award.

In 17 starts for the Brewers in 2008, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, tossing seven complete games, including three shutouts. Aside from a near no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the most impressive of those seven complete games was Sabathia’s last.

On the final day of the regular season, Sabathia made his third consecutive start on three days’ rest and worked all nine innings in the most clutch pitching performance in Brewers history. In front of 45,299 fans, Sabathia threw 122 pitches, struck out seven, scattered four hits and allowed only one unearned run.

“It’s unbelievable what he has done for the guys on this team, this organization and this city,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “He’s revived baseball in Milwaukee. He took whatever expectation we had and destroyed it.”

Braun played a pretty big role in the club’s run as well. On that night, Braun made the difference at the plate, as he blasted a tie-breaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning, which gave the Brewers the 3-1 win.

Just days earlier, Braun delivered a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-1 Brewers win.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s difficult to describe,” Braun said. “The grand slam the other night, that was pretty special, but this one was pretty meaningful.”

With the Brewers finally returning to the postseason, Miller Park hosted the first two playoff games in its history on Oct. 4-5, 2008. The first game, Game 3, was the Brewers’ first win in the postseason since that 1982 World Series. Game 4 was a different story, however, as the Phillies secured a trip to the NLCS with a 6-2 win.

They came up short of winning their first playoff series since 1982, but for fans in Milwaukee and across the state of Wisconsin, the ’08 season was one to remember, and one 26 years in the making.

For the first time since 1982, the Brewers played games in October that mattered.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers may miss reunion with Hardy

June 21, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Those looking forward to seeing J.J. Hardy take the field at Miller Park this week for the first time in a Minnesota Twins uniform may have to wait.

Due to a nagging bone bruise in his left wrist, an injury that has limited Hardy to just 12 games since May 4 and resulted in two trips to the disabled list, the former Brewers shortstop remains unsure whether he’ll even make the trip to Milwaukee, much less play.

“I can’t be sure yet,” Hardy said on Saturday. “Probably not is what I would say. But who knows?”

For Hardy and the Twins, the good news is that a second opinion on the wrist revealed that the injury is no more than a bone bruise. Unfortunately for Hardy, it does not appear as though he’ll be ready to return when eligible to be activated from the DL on Tuesday.

As a result, Hardy would miss another opportunity to face his former team, just as he did a month ago, when the Brewers were in Minneapolis for an Interleague series at Target Field.

“I would be a little bit disappointed, yeah,” said Hardy about not being able to play in Milwaukee. “But right now I’m just trying to get back on the field. I don’t care if it’s Milwaukee or anywhere else, I just want to be back out there playing. This has been kind of a really nagging, really annoying thing.”

After the Brewers decided to go younger, faster and, perhaps most important, cheaper at shortstop and center field in the offseason, Hardy was traded to the Twins on Nov. 6, 2009, in exchange for center fielder Carlos Gomez.

Needing extra money to pursue pitching help, the Brewers chose to swap the power bats of Hardy and veteran outfielder Mike Cameron for the speed and youth of Gomez and rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar. The concern at the time was whether the power drop at those two positions would have a negative impact on the offense.

As it turns out, added power from other sources has more than made up for it.

Through 69 games this year, the Brewers have hit 83 home runs while slugging .430. At the same point a year ago, the Brewers had 79 homers and a .420 slugging percentage.

One of the Brewers’ biggest surprises as far as power numbers, though, has more to do with what isn’t happening than what is. Both left fielder Ryan Braun and first baseman Prince Fielder are well off their respective 2009 paces in home runs and RBIs.

Through 69 games last season, Braun and Fielder had combined to belt 32 home runs with 117 RBIs. Through Sunday’s victory, Braun has 10 homers with 45 RBIs and Fielder has 13 home runs and just 27 RBIs.

“It is kind of surprising that we’re doing it without Braun and Prince being really hot,” right fielder Corey Hart said. “Those guys are going to be where they always are, and that means that it’s just going to get better. Their power is going to come.”

Two of the biggest reasons behind the increased power numbers, though, have been the health of second baseman Rickie Weeks and Hart’s surprising power production since the middle of May.

Through 69 games a year ago — with Weeks only playing 37 before sustaining a season-ending wrist injury — Hart and Weeks had combined for 18 homers and 56 RBIs.

Including Hart’s National League-leading 18th homer on Saturday, the two have combined for 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 2009.

“Every year is different. We all try to peg in numbers for everyone before the season starts, but that’s not the way it works,” veteran infielder Craig Counsell said. “Guys have great years, some guys exceed what we think and some guys don’t. We have a good offensive team. Corey has added production, Rickie being healthy has added home runs for us.

“And I don’t think that with the guys we have in the middle of our lineup that we’re going to struggle hitting home runs. It’s been that way for a while. That’s not going to be our weakness.”

So although the numbers at shortstop and center field are down, and the pitching hasn’t worked out as well as the club had hoped, the Brewers seem just fine with the Hardy trade so far.

Likewise, Hardy has been happy with the change of scenery. And though they would probably like to have him around, his former teammates are happy for him as well.

“J.J. loves it over there,” Braun said. “He loves the team, loves the environment, loves the city. He’s disappointed that he’s hurt, but I think he’s excited to be on a good team and wants to contribute to a good team.”

Contributing is exactly what Hardy would like to do once he is cleared to play again.

Until then, he would settle for a trip back to the place he called home the past five years.

“Just going back would be nice. When they came up to Minnesota, I got to see all my old friends,” Hardy said. “I definitely would rather be out there on the field playing against them. If that doesn’t happen, it’s always good to see them.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for reporters Kelly Thesier and Adam McCalvy contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Column 11/10

November 10, 2009 Comments off

Schelling: Hardy trade good for Brewers’ future

A Schelling for your Thoughts
The Badger Herald