MILWAUKEE — Just before the all-star break, Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Bill Hall, a former Nettleton star, was approached by club officials and asked to go to the minors to work on his swing. Hall declined, as was his right as a player with at least five years in the majors.
Four days into the second half, things changed when the Brewers acquired infielder Felipe Lopez from Arizona. Any chance Hall had of getting enough at-bats to emerge from a prolonged hitting funk disappeared.
“This time, it was my decision,” said Hall, who volunteered to be optioned Thursday to Class AAA Nashville to work on his swing.
Despite his struggles throughout the 2008 season (.225, 15 HRs, 55 RBI), Hall was given a chance to regain his spot as the starting third baseman by new manager Ken Macha. Hall got off to a solid start but eventually went into a horrid slump, batting .136 in May. He is hitting .201 with five homers and 20 RBI in 199 at-bats, with 68 strikeouts and a .180 average against right-handed pitchers.
When Hall failed to end his skid, Macha began alternating Craig Counsell and Casey McGehee at third. Then, rookie Mat Gamel was brought up for several weeks and saw action at the position.
When the switch-hitting Lopez was acquired and took over as the regular second baseman and leadoff hitter, Hall’s playing time all but vanished. That’s when he decided it couldn’t hurt to go down to Nashville and get some at-bats.
General manager Doug Melvin said Hall would not take away at-bats from Gamel, who is playing third base every day for the Sounds.
“He’ll play at different positions,” said Melvin. “I think that’s great for him. We encouraged him to go down.”
If not for his big contract, Hall probably would have been released by now. He is making $6.8 million this season and $8.4 million in 2010 at the end of a four-year, $24 million deal he received after slugging 35 homers with 85 RBI in 2006.
“My swing is good; I just need some repetitions,” said Hall. “My (batting practice) for the last three weeks has been some of the best of my career.
“I’m not getting any playing time here. That makes it tough to turn things around. Who knows what the situation will be when I get back? It could be the same thing. At least, I’ll get some at-bats and see some pitches.
“It’s all on my terms. When I feel like I’ve got enough at-bats and swinging the bat well, I’ll come back. It’s going to be a minimum of six days. I’ll call them when I’m ready to come back.”
Tom Haudricourt/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MCT)