MINNEAPOLIS Shortstop J.J. Hardy was a member of the Minnesota Twins team that opened Target Field by winning the American League Central in the ballpark's inaugural season.
Two years later, he has a chance to again be a key contributor on a playoff team, this time with the surprising Baltimore Orioles. Through Tuesday's game against his former Minnesota squad, Hardy and the Orioles are 46-44, third in the tough American League East and just a half game out of a wild-card spot.
Hardy, 29, has been a big reason for Baltimore's surprising success. After boasting career highs in home runs (30) and RBI (80) in his first year with the team last season, the shortstop has again been a key cog in the Orioles lineup. Though his average is at a career-low .217, he still has 13 homers, 81 hits and 34 RBI.
The key has been health. Hardy has avoided the disabled list so far in 2012, something he wasn't able to do with the Twins he had two stints on the DL with a wrist injury. Even last seas...