05/20/07 2:50 PM ET
Notes: Hall learns from one of the best
Center fielder enjoys close relationship with Twins' Hunter
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
"Anything you need," Hunter told Hall, "just call me. We'll talk."
Hall took Hunter up on the offer, and then-Brewers infielder Junior Spivey joined them for dinner at Mo's Steakhouse in Milwaukee. Their new favorite spot is Carnivore, another steak joint, and Hall and Hunter have developed a friendship that this year has really paid off for the Brewers' new center fielder.
During the offseason, the Brewers announced that Hall, who had played almost exclusively on the infield and earned club MVP honors as the shortstop in 2006, would be moving to the outfield. Hall settled in center field, where Hunter has won six consecutive American League Gold Gloves.
Searching for his own identity in center, Hall has drawn on advice from Atlanta's Andruw Jones, whom he met in last winter's Japan Series and who typically plays very shallow, and Hunter, who typically plays deep. Hall has settled somewhere in the middle, and has made dramatic improvements since a shaky first week of the regular season.
That "work in progress" period was to be expected, according to Hunter.
"Of course," Hunter said. "He's such a good athlete, and right now he's getting by on his athletic ability. As he plays, he will get to know the hitters better and what they tend to do. ... There are a lot of little changes that go into playing out there, and you learn by experience."
Miller Park is one of the tougher places to play center field, Hunter said, because of the way the baseball jumps off hitters' bats.
"Balls are hit, and they are on you really quick," Hunter said. "It's like there is a downward slope out there, like guys are golfing off a high tee."
Hall learned from Hunter to treat batting practice as though it's a game. Even at 31 years old, Hunter still tracks hundreds of fly balls every day during BP.
"My work ethic in BP comes from him," Hall said. "People don't see how hard he works every day taking fly balls and getting better. He takes balls 'live' the whole time, and that, I believe, is why I have gotten better since Spring Training."
Hall's bat has lagged a bit this season, but he still had six home runs and 19 RBIs entering Sunday's series finale. Last year, he led the Brewers with 35 homers and 85 RBIs.
Hunter saw Hall's talent early.
"I saw so much talent and promise in that kid," Hunter said. "There was just respect there. I love a kid like that, and I told him if there was ever anything he needed to get off his chest, just to call me.
"He's still a work in progress. He's still learning, and he's a guy who hit 35 home runs. That's scary."
Emergency only: With Craig Counsell batting .222 and Tony Graffanino hitting .198 entering Sunday's game, and with one home run and 15 RBIs between them, many observers have asked whether the Brewers would consider moving Hall back to the infield to man third base as a way to open center field for Tony Gwynn Jr., who could then hit leadoff.
The fact that Hall took grounders at third on Saturday only fueled the speculation. But it's not going to happen, according to bench coach Dale Sveum.
"The only way he's going to play over there is what almost happened [Saturday]," Sveum said.
Midway through batting practice on Saturday, shortstop J.J. Hardy went to the trainer's room to receive medication for a bad head cold, and his availability was momentarily in question. With second baseman Rickie Weeks already out with a sore wrist, the Brewers had no other infielders.
"[Hall] would have been our only option," Sveum said.
But why third base? Hall is a natural shortstop, and he played there nearly all of last season. Third base can be more difficult because of the speed with which players must react to balls off the bat. At shortstop, players can more easily pick their hop to make a play.
"But I haven't played [the infield] since last October, and third base would be fewer chances," Hall said. "You have to be pretty in tune with your ground balls at shortstop to play there, because so many balls are hit to shortstop. ... At the most, I would get three ground balls [at third], and hopefully, they wouldn't be too tough."
The Brewers have committed to Hall in center field because top prospect Ryan Braun is a third baseman, and Braun is expected up in the Majors either this year or next.
Getting close: Weeks expects to return to the lineup when the Brewers begin a West Coast road trip on Monday in Los Angeles. Beyond that, he was not interested in talking about his surgically repaired right wrist.
"All I can say is it flared up on me a little bit, and that's why I haven't been playing much," said Weeks, who admitted that he is anxious to get back to work.
"It's kind of hard to go out there and try to watch the team play and you're not in the mix," he said. "You try to be a cheerleader out there for your team."
On deck: Los Angeles resident Jeff Suppan will return home on Monday, when he starts for the Brewers against the Dodgers and right-hander Brett Tomko at 9:10 p.m. CT. After winning five straight starts from April 14 to May 5, Suppan has lost his last two.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.