Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Slow start for Hardy

BALTIMORE - When J.J. Hardy bounced the first pitch he faced Saturday to third for an easy groundout, the Baltimore Orioles shortstop saw his average sink to .179.

Although it's early, this hasn't resembled anything close to the kind of performance Hardy hoped for in the first season of his three-year extension with the Orioles.

Hardy has done a solid job in terms of racking up extra-base hits with three homers and three doubles in his first 78 at-bats.

But he summarized his start in one word.

"Bad," he said. "It's an 80 at-bats that could've been a good 80 at-bats, so I'm not thrilled about it.

"But at the same time, it's not like it's going to automatically mean that my season's going to suck."

Hardy, who entered Saturday with a .247 on-base percentage, hasn't noticed any mechanical errors with his swing or the like.

He said the problem is simple.

"I'm just not seeing the ball good right now," he said.

There is one thing making it less frustrating for Hardy.

"It makes it easier for me to know even though I'm struggling, the team's still winning," he said. "If we were losing and I was struggling and I had a lot of chances to help the team win, then that would be a different story.

"Obviously I'd like to do better than what I'm doing, but it's still early."

FLAHERTY IN RIGHT: Utility man Ryan Flaherty made his first career start in right field, a position he patrolled in just 13 minor-league games, all last season.

Flaherty played right field in spring training, but had not yet appeared in the outfield this season.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had tried the Rule 5 pick at first, second and third before the contest, and clearly likes Flaherty's versatility. He described the rookie as still a bit of an unknown in terms of what positions he can play in the majors.

"There's only one way to find out," Showalter said. "You know, 'How'd you know that this guy could play this?' Well, we ran him out there. I know his background. He's played all over."

WHOOPING BIRD COUGH: Since their recently completed road trip, the Orioles have had to deal with illness spreading around the clubhouse.

On Saturday, Ronny Paulino started at catcher in place of Matt Wieters, who is wheezy and sick, and Flaherty started in right to let ill outfielder Nick Markakis take a break by serving as designated hitter.

Outfielder Endy Chavez was also unavailable because he's sick and suffering from a strained intercostal muscle in his ribcage.

"You've got people sick and you're trying to figure out a way to keep them as healthy as you can," Showalter said. "We didn't have this last year."