Baltimore Orioles All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy will rejoin the club in New York tonight as the Orioles get set to take on the Yankees in the Bronx. Hardy has not played yet this season after suffering a left shoulder sprain during Spring Training.
Hardy played three games with the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate Bowie BaySox this week, and went 4-for-12 with a double and an RBI. Even though Hardy shook off some of the rust during his rehab assignment, he has taken only 12 at-bats since mid-March. Getting his timing back will still likely take a few games at the Major League level.
“My shoulder is ready,” Hardy said. “I got what, 12 at-bats in the last six weeks, so timing is going to be something that I’ve got to deal with. But I either deal with it up there or here, so if (Showalter) wants me to come up, I’m coming up.”
Hardy is a two-time All-Star and the reigning American League Gold Glove winner at shortstop. He also dealt with injuries last year, playing in only 141 games, and suffering a 61 point drop in slugging percentage from .433 to .372. If the shoulder injury does not nag Hardy throughout the season, his power numbers should rebound. Hardy will also represent a significant offensive upgrade for the Orioles over light-hitting Everth Cabrera, who has slashed only .205/.227/.229 this season while filling in for Hardy at shortstop.
Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty will also rejoin the Orioles in New York, but is not eligible to come off the DL until Friday. Flaherty had handled most of the second base duties following Jonathan Schoop‘s knee injury prior to suffering a groin injury against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 22. Flaherty’s return will give Buck Showalter added infield flexibility while the Orioles wait for Jonathan Schoop to return.
With Hardy and Flaherty both returning, Rey Navarro is most certainly destined for the minors. The Orioles must decide how to create one more roster spot to accommodate both infielders. Jimmy Paredes has hit well since being summoned from Triple-A, but may be the odd man out as the Orioles shuffle their roster. Paredes is out of options, so the Orioles must decide if it is worth the risk to try and pass him through waivers. Cabrera still appears to have some value to the Orioles, especially as a pinch-runner. Another option would be to send a relief pitcher down, but that appears to be a poor solution, given the struggles of the Orioles’ starting rotation this year.
No matter what the Orioles decide to do, this is a good problem to have. They get an All-Star shortstop back, and a utility infielder who plays significantly better defense than any of the fill-in options Showalter has been forced to use (although Steve Pearce does play a sneaky good second base).