By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Mar 17, 2005 at 5:11 AM

{image1} PHOENIX -- It sounds like a law firm, but the partnership formed by J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart and David Krynzel is on the baseball diamond and could have a profound impact on the Brewers' future.

Hardy is getting a shot this spring at the starting shortstop position. Hart and Krynzel could stick with the club as extra outfielders and eventually could end up as starters.

Hart and Krynzel were selected in the 2000 free agent draft. Hardy was picked in 2001. They have come up through the farm system together and formed close friendships.

"I'm the last one to come up to the big leagues, since Corey and David were up for parts of last season," Hardy says. "I guess I'm the first to get a chance to start. I think they believed I was ready last season, but then I got injured (torn labrum in left shoulder).

"It's helped to be together on the way up. We've become good friends and help pick each other up."

Hardy has been told to concentrate on his fielding at short. Any offense he provides will be considered a bonus. "That takes a lot of pressure off, since I'm confident in my defense," he says. "At the same time, I want to contribute to the offense."

Hart could stick as insurance in left and right. He is getting a little extra playing time while Carlos Lee is recovering from a bruised left wrist and back in Panama celebrating the birth of a child.

"I don't necessarily expect to make the team, although that would be very nice," Hart says. "They have said that we could be called up during the season any time somebody is injured."

Hart has shown some pop in the minors. He started as a first baseman, switched to third base and now is seen as an outfielder. "I'm getting comfortable in the outfield," he says.

Krynzel is a good defensive centerfielder and is seen as an eventual leadoff man. He is behind veteran Brady Clark at this point. "I don't know what will happen," he says.

GM Doug Melvin says Krynzel could stick with the club if manager Ned Yost can get him into games four or five times in a couple weeks span. Otherwise, he is better off playing every day at AAA and coming up when needed.

Hart echoed Hardy about how much the partnership among the three has helped. "We root for each other," he says. "Being with these guys has helped make the transitions at each level. Hopefully, we'll all make it eventually at this level."

The Next Generation

Not far behind Hardy, Hart and Krynzel are Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. Fielder especially has been impressive this spring, causing some observers to say the 20-year-old first baseman should come north with the team.

"There's no place for Prince to play right now with Lyle (Overbay) at first base," Melvin says. "Plus, he's only 20 years old, so we think he could use some more seasoning at Triple A. We have told him and Rickie to be ready in case somebody goes down to an injury. Rickie came up last season when Junior Spivey went down."

Fielder, who is strictly a first baseman, could force the Brewers into making some tough decisions. Do they eventually deal Overbay to make room for a rookie? It's too bad Fielder could not be switched to third base, where the Brewers do not have any good young prospects ready in the next year or so.

Cactus League Notes

Ben Sheets reported no back problems after his first start of the spring last week and pitched again Tuesday night ... Carlos Lee escaped any broken bones when he was hit on the left wrist by a Jamey Wright pitch. Lee underwent an MRI to make sure there were no hairline fractures. He is expected to resume playing when he returns from Panama to visit his wife and new child ... Russell Branyan seems to be leading Wes Helms and Jeff Cirillo in the battle for third base. Branyan went 3-3 in one game and has been showing some power ... The Brewers start some Interstate 94 rivalries in the middle of the desert. They travel to Mesa to play the Cubs Saturday. Next Tuesday, they play the Cubs again and on Wednesday meet the White Sox in Maryvale.

Hot Tix

March Madness hits big time this week. UWM plays Alabama in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday in Cleveland. UW meets Northern Iowa in the tournament in Oklahoma City Friday. Prep hoops are also into their tournaments.

The Bucks host Washington at the Bradley Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Admirals will celebrate St. Patty's day with a 7 p.m. hockey game Thursday against Manitoba at the B.C., and host Edmonton at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. In soccer, the Wave hosts St. Louis at 1 p.m. Sunday at the U.S. Cellular Arena.

In addition to the game with the Cubs on Saturday, the Brewers host the A's Friday and Rangers on Sunday at Maryvale.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.