Found July 18, 2012 on
Fox Sports North:
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 season, he missed time last year with an oblique strain.
Hardy hasn't played more than 140 games in a season since 2008, when he played in 146 games with the Milwaukee Brewers. Through Tuesday, his 88 games played ranked second on the Orioles behind only center fielder Adam Jones (90 games).
"I've been out there pretty much every day," Hardy said. "I've also had my ups and downs. It's been a grind. It's been a grind for me. But as long as the team keeps winning, it makes it easier for me."
Back in 2010, the Twins traded outfielder Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for Hardy with the hope he might solidify a shortstop position that had been in flux over the years. For the most part, he did that defensively, but he played in only 101 games. Hardy batted .268 with six homers and 38 RBI, numbers which were a regression from his time with the Brewers.
But Hardy was a part of a Twins team that won yet another American League Central title and helped ring in the inaugural season of Target Field with a 94-68 record. Two years later, he's trying to help a young Orioles squad make it to the playoffs.
"In 2010, I feel like we had a lot of guys over there that had been there and done that, so when we did come to the tough times, there was some experience there," Hardy said. "I think this team is kind of learning, learning what the pressure is like and the expectations. It's a little bit different in that way, but it's definitely a good team."
Another member of that 2010 Twins team is also in Baltimore, as the Orioles recently traded with Philadelphia to acquire 41-year-old slugger Jim Thome. Hardy and Thome were teammates in 2010, when Thome hit 25 homers and drove in 59 runs.
Baltimore is hoping Thome can provide a veteran bat and some left-handed power to help Hardy and the Orioles make a late-season push.
"J.J., he's had a great year. I think he's a big part of what they've done here," Thome said of Hardy. "Being a teammate of his, it's a pleasure. He was the first guy that texted me when I got traded. Being with somebody you're familiar with always helps, no doubt."
The Orioles finished last in the AL East in 2011 and had a record better than only the Seattle Mariners and 99-loss Twins. But something has clicked this season for upstart Baltimore. Though the Orioles have faded since mid-June (they're just 7-17 since June 18), they seem to be heading in the right direction as a franchise.
"Lately we've been struggling a little bit. But it's still there," Hardy said. "We just need to find that good team that we had early on and stay consistent and we have a pretty good shot. We like where we're at so far. People didn't think we would be where we are right now, but we're feeling good."
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
BEST OF MAXIM
J.J. Hardy won’t run this town any longer. After hitting seven home runs and posting a tremendous .922 OPS in May, Hardy’s followed with an abysmal .498 OPS in June, and an awful .329 OPS in July. Yes, some of this variance is due to fluctuations in his BABIP and home run to fly ball rate, but when you have an OPS that low it is hard to simply dismiss it as bad luck. J.J., can...
J.J. Hardy is one of the players Baltimore manager Buck Showalter knows he can lean on when things get tough.
The Orioles are having a pretty hard time lately, and for one of the few times in Hardy's season and a half in Baltimore, the steady shortstop faltered in a big moment.
Hardy's throwing error in the seventh inning led to two runs that proved to be the difference...
I would say definitely.
Miguel Gonzalez has been one of the many great stories that have happened in Baltimore this season and he could not have emerged at a better time. With the exception of Wei-Yin Chen the Orioles’ Ppening Day 5-man rotation is either in the minors or on the disabled list; Jason Hammel was placed on the 15 day DL and had surgery on a loose piece of cartilage...
Second baseman Robert Andino was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Orioles and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks after suffering a left shoulder subluxation attempting to dive for a ball against Detroit on Sunday. The move is retroactive to July 16. Andino is hitting .230 with five home runs and 21 RBI in 79 games, and Steve Tolleson and Ryan Flaherty will share time in his...
The Baltimore Orioles are currently searching for a way to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They are quickly running out options after a cruel twist of fate further crippled a pitching staff that was already teetering. The Orioles fell 4-0 to the Detroit Tigers, but the most crucial blow of the day came from off the field in the training room.
With their starting rotation in a state of flux, the injury-plagued Baltimore Orioles are counting on Zach Britton to help provide some stability.
Britton is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to make his season debut Tuesday night as the visiting Orioles take on the Minnesota Twins, who broke out in a big way during the opener of this four-game set.
After going 11-11...
A piece of memorabilia that once was lost has now been found. Last month, Jim Thome hit his 607th career home run against the Twins at Target Field when he was still with the Phillies. The ball appeared to land in one of the flower pots above the wall in right-center field and was not recovered until the following day. Now, it is in Twins manager Ron Gardenhire’s possession. Thome...
Yesterday, the Orioles got a well-needed victory as Tommy Hunter’s arm and Adam Jones’ propelled them over the Minnesota Twins, 2-1.
Baltimore snapped a painful three-game losing streak and finally got a stellar performance from a starting pitcher. Hunter, who was demoted back to the minors again this season for the second time, was brought back up to the majors to stop the...
Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the first inning against Francisco Liriano and the Baltimore Orioles hung on to beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Josh Willingham's home run in the fourth was all Minnesota could manage against Tommy Hunter (4-4), who returned to Baltimore's stumbling rotation with a solid performance that lasted one out into the eighth inning...
The last time Jim Thome was at Target Field, the slugger hit his 607th career homer into the flower bed in right-center field while he was playing with the Phillies.
It took the Twins two days to find the ball buried underneath the flowers and the Phillies had left town by then. So Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has it enclosed in a clear case in his office and he had a playful message...
The Baltimore Orioles have had their problems establishing a consistent starting rotation, and they're hoping rookie Miguel Gonzalez can help out as they open a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.
Gonzalez (1-1, 2.59 ERA) started the season as a relief pitcher, and after three solid appearances was called upon to fill a spot in the injury-ridden rotation...
After Saturday’s thrilling win against the Detroit Tigers, things seem to have only gotten worse for the Orioles. They lost on Sunday, and figured their first stop on a weeklong road trip against the woeful Minnesota Twins might do some good.
Sadly, it would not go as planned. The Orioles were hoping for another good start from Chris Tillman and were optimistic in his abilities...