Five years later, the Braves are going to give the soft-throwing left-hander a chance to chase his dreams.
The Braves selected Hardy and right-hander Eliecer Cardenas in the Minor League portion of Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. They lost left-hander Scott Diamond to the Twins in the Major League portion.
Diamond combined to go 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this past summer. The 24-year-old was 4-1 with a 3.36 ERA in his 10 starts with Gwinnett.
The Twins will now pay the Braves $50,000 for the rights to Diamond. If they don't keep him on their Major League roster throughout the entire 2011 season, they must give the Braves a chance to reclaim him for $25,000.
"We felt all along that he was probably the most at-risk guy left off our Major League roster," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We just didn't think we could put together our roster this winter with all the spots filled."
When Wren and his staff began forming their 40-man roster in November, he needed to keep spots open for offseason transactions. At the same time, there was a focus to protect more valuable Rule 5-eligible prospects like Matt Young, Randall Delgado and Cory Gerrin by placing them on the 40-man roster.
Former closer Billy Wagner will continue to occupy one of the spots on the Braves' 40-man roster until he submits his retirement papers. But even if he had done so earlier this winter, it doesn't appear the Braves would have given the valuable spot to Diamond.
While Wagner escaped the collegiate ranks and rose to fame with a high-powered fastball, Hardy has persevered through the lower Minor League levels with a fastball that has topped out around 80 mph.
Hardy proved himself with the Royals' Rookie Level club in 2006, and then surprised many when he went 15-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 26 appearances (22 starts) for Class A Wilmington the following season. His efforts earned him the 2007 Carolina League Pitcher of the Year Award.
While pitching at the Double-A level, Hardy hasn't enjoyed the same level of success. He posted a 3.44 ERA in 36 relief appearances last year with Northwest Arkansas and gave some reason to believe he might eventually be effective as a left-handed specialist at the Major League level.
Cardenas has gone 16-7 with a 2.62 ERA in five Minor League seasons in the Twins' organization. Three of those seasons were completed in the Dominican Republic and the other in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.
While pitching at the Class A level in the Midwest League this past summer, the 22-year-old right-hander went 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA. He has been primarily used as a reliever the past two seasons.
Players acquired during the Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft cost $12,500. The claiming clubs can allow the drafted players to pitch at any level throughout their system.
Cardenas will likely pitch for Class A Rome or Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. Hardy will likely begin the season with Double-A Mississippi.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.