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Brewers may bring Hardy back today; play St. Louis tonight

The Milwaukee Brewers are expected to bring shortstop J.J. Hardy back from the minors today, as teams are allowed to expand their rosters from 25-40 players. Hardy was batting .229 when he was sent down to Triple-A Nashville on Aug. 12, supposedly to work on his swing.

But because he spent 20 days in the minors, he lost a year of service time in the Majors - and that means he'll be eligible for free agency in 2011 instead of next year.

Once his agent told him that, Hardy said he was angered. He told the Journal Sentinel "It beat me up inside," and he felt like he was being permanently demoted in favor of prospect Alcides Escobar.

General manager Doug Melvin said he could understand why Hardy would feel that way.

But he said the Brewers did Hardy and some other young players a favor, by giving them Major League service time before they had a chance to really blossom.

Hardy, 27, signed a one-year, $4.6 million contract in the spring.

And because he won't be a free agent next year, it supposedly makes it easier for the Brewers to trade Hardy.

Melvin says he's not sure if it will happen. Melvin said his team has two big-league-caliber shortstops in Hardy and Escobar while many teams struggle to have one good player at that spot. Hardy batted .246 at Triple-A Nashville last month.

The Brewers will open a three-game series at St. Louis tonight.

The Cardinals now have a 10.5 game lead over the second-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and they're 12 up on third-place Milwaukee.

Tony La Russa's Redbirds pulled away by going 36-17 since July 1.

Starters Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Joel Pineiro have gone 29-4 during that stretch.

And left-fielder Matt Holliday, whom the Cardinals acquired from Oakland, has batted .367 for his new team with eight homers and 32 RBI's in 34 games.

St. Louis is 77-55. Milwaukee is 64-66, and they didn't lose anybody in Monday's flurry of trades involving Major League contenders.

Also, the Brewers remain 7.5 games back for the National League Wild Card.

They're still in sixth place behind Wild Card leaders San Francisco and Colorado.

Right-hander Braden Looper will start for the Brewers tonight against the right-handed Pineiro.

Brewers' shortstop Alcides Escobar has been named to the Pacific Coast League's post-season All-Star team, for his performance at Triple-A Nashville.

He batted .298 with the Sounds before being promoted to the Majors on Aug. 12.

And he still ranks third in the league with 42 stolen bases.

Escobar also hit four homers for Nashville with 34 RBI's in 109 games.