Notes: Hardy embraces second spot
Shortstop enjoys responsibilities of two-hole
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ned Yost says he is still mulling lineup combinations, but he appears to have settled on a two-hole hitter.
It's J.J. Hardy, who has started 16 Cactus League games this spring, all in that slot. The most common lineup combination starts with leadoff man Rickie Weeks, followed by Hardy, Prince Fielder and Bill Hall.
"That's good. That's where I like to hit," Hardy said. "I can take pitches when I need to, especially if Rickie [Weeks] is going to steal. I could care less if I have two strikes on me.
"And I like the fact that you have a job to do there, whether that means hitting a grounder to the right side to move Rickie to third or bunting him to second. That way, Prince and Billy can drive him in." Hardy singled in his only at-bat on Thursday, but the Rockies-Brewers game at Maryvale Baseball Park was called after three innings because of rain and hail. He is batting .265 in official Cactus League at-bats.
During Hardy's brief Major League career he has batted almost exclusively second (214 at-bats) and eighth (211 at-bats). Hardy batted .242 last season, but was limited to 35 games by a right ankle injury that he first tried to rehab. He underwent surgery July 20 to fix a "loose" tendon.
Yost said only that Hardy will "probably" hit second this season, but reserved the right to change his mind. Veterans Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell, expected to share duties at third base, are also options there, though Yost has mostly batted them lower in the order this spring. In Thursday's game against the Rockies, Graffanino started and batted eighth.
"It's a tough spot to hit," Yost said. "It's almost like the two-hole. You've got to have a game presence and knowledge of what the opposing pitcher is trying to do. A lot of times you're in that eight-hole and the pitcher is trying to work around you and you force the issue."
Mixed feelings: The Brewers were pleased to get catcher JD Closser through waivers on Wednesday so they could send him outright to Triple-A Nashville. Closser was admittedly not as thrilled with the move.
"Was I surprised that it happened at this time? Yeah, a little bit. But surprised that it happened at all? No," Closser said. "I knew it was a possibility.
"It's a numbers thing. I just wanted to play as well as I could and see what happened, and I did that. It didn't happen. That's the disappointing thing. I'm not mad or upset at what's going on, it's just a little disappointing that I got through [waivers]."
Closser will remain in big league camp. He entered Thursday's game hitting .364 in Cactus League games.
Soggy but happy: Dave Bush was pleased with his outing in a Minor League intrasquad game Thursday despite a driving rain that dampened two of his innings. After watching Carlos Villanueva's outing called after three innings in the "A" game, Bush was feeling even better.
"At this point, the most important thing is how I feel and getting my work in," Bush said. "If that means pitching through some rain, I'm going to do it."
Bush is scheduled to pitch again on Tuesday. His next turn would come April 1, when the Brewers will be at Miller Park for their annual "On Deck" fan event. The way Brewers pitchers are currently lined up, Bush will pitch the fourth game of the regular season, assuming he stays on an every-fifth-day schedule.
Last year, Bush started as the No. 5 starter, but went on to lead the Brewers with 12 wins.
"That's up to Ned and Mike [Maddux, pitching coach] and whatever they decide," Bush said. "Once you get past the first couple of weeks, [labels of] one through five are kind of irrelevant. We'll just have to see how it shakes out."
Catching up: Harlem Globetrotter Anthony Blakes stopped by Maryvale Baseball Park and reunited with Hall. The two met at a Phoenix-area gym a few years ago and played pickup basketball.
"He's a shooter and he can handle the ball, but he doesn't play any defense," Blakes joked. "You [reporters] can put that in there. I had to get all of the steals and rebounds."
Last call: Gabe Gross (hamstring) made his first start in the outfield this spring and was tested early. Rockies leadoff man Willy Taveras hit a sinking line drive to left field and Gross made a diving catch. ... Veteran infielder Jose Macias, who last played in the Majors with the Cubs in 2005, singled off Bush in the Minor League game. The Brewers signed Macias to a Minor League deal last week after Washington released him. ... Outfielder Geoff Jenkins is the only non-injured Brewers position player scheduled to get Friday off. ... Weather permitting, Ben Sheets will throw six innings or 90 pitches on Friday. If the skies are clear in the afternoon, Sheets will pitch a Triple-A game against the Angels at Maryvale Baseball Park and lefty Zach Jackson will pitch the night game against Texas at Surprise Stadium. If more storms loom, the team will try to work Sheets in the night game.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.