Hardy returns to Orioles' lineup after monthlong absence

Shortstop homers in first game back; Rupe designated for assignment

May 10, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

The first play J.J. Hardy had to make in his rehabilitation assignment for Triple-A Norfolk last Friday was a hard grounder up the middle that forced the shortstop to stretch to get the ball and make an off-balance throw.

"If there were any question about his health, that would have [told us something]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Hardy, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, was back in the Orioles' lineup for the first time since April 9, when he strained his left oblique while taking a swing in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers. Hardy went 2-for-9 with three walks and two runs in the three-game rehab assignment with the Tides.

"I feel fine," said Hardy, who started at shortstop and batted ninth. "I've played the last three games down there in Norfolk and didn't feel anything, and I feel like the injury's in the past now."

It certainly looked that way in the third inning Tuesday, when Hardy connected for a solo homer, his first home run since Sept. 8.

When he first got hurt, Hardy was hoping he would miss only the minimum amount of time that his disabled list stay required. However, an extended stay, coupled with the team's struggles while he was gone — the Orioles went 8-17 in his absence — made it even more difficult for him to be away from the club.

"I think anytime you're away from the team, it's tough, especially a new team. But everything went smoothly," Hardy said. "I didn't have any setbacks, so I guess everything went as well as I guess it could have. … It seems like it's kind of been a roller coaster. They've had their ups or downs, and I think being away and … from the outside looking in, I know it's a good team and I think everyone still believes that. I think we just need to turn around and be more consistent."

Rupe out; Berken going long

To make room for Hardy on the 25-man roster, the Orioles designated long reliever Josh Rupe for assignment. After making the team with a strong spring training, Rupe posted a 5.65 ERA in nine outings, allowing nine earned runs in 141/3 innings.

The Orioles, who have 39 players on their 40-man roster, will find out Thursday whether Rupe clears waivers. If he does, they'll outright him to Norfolk.

"We just needed to get to 12 pitchers with J.J. coming back, and we felt like, basically of all the options available for us right now, that was a better fit," Showalter said. "If we use up the bullpen, then we have avenues to go, one of which will be him if he clears."

Rupe's departure will leave the Orioles without a prototypical long man in their bullpen. However, Showalter said Jason Berken could be used in such situations.

"I don't think we are going necessarily without a long man," Showalter said. "Berken is capable of doing that. [It] depends on how long, four of five innings, two or three innings, And if we exhaust that, then we will make some moves. We are not going to go into some games where we are not covered in case someone has a short outing. That's been a challenge of ours that's been well-documented."

Simon to return to Dominican

Right-hander Alfredo Simon will pitch for Double-A Bowie on Wednesday morning, but his next outing after that is in jeopardy because the pitcher is expected to return to the Dominican Republic to deal with legal matters relating to his two-month imprisonment as the chief suspect in a fatal New Year's Day shooting.

Simon was tentatively scheduled to start for Norfolk on Monday in Lehigh Valley, Pa., but that won't happen now. However, Orioles officials are hopeful that he'll be able to return to the United States soon and make at least one more start for an affiliate before possibly being called up by the team this month.

"I'm not going to put a lot of confidence in him being able to get right back out [of the Dominican Republic]," Showalter said. "It will be a moving target as far as when he pitches again, but I think you'll definitely see him pitch again. … We'll see what the Dominican authorities allow."

Scott will adjust

Showalter said Monday's diagnosis of a torn labrum Luke Scott's right shoulder really won't change how the Orioles use the left fielder. But it does mean that Scott will have to make adjustments with his routine.

Scott met Tuesday with head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, who prescribed exercises for the outfielder aimed at strengthening the area around his shoulder. Scott also has been advised to limit or in some cases eliminate certain upper body workouts.

"It changed my routine. I'm a gym rat," Scott said. "I want to be strong in all aspects of the game, but it's something I'm just going to have to deal with and make the most of. It's either that or surgery, and surgery is just not an option for me right now."

Overlea grad signed

The Orioles signed Darryl Crosier, a 2003 graduate of Overlea High, to a minor league deal. He will report to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Orioles in Sarasota, Fla.

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