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Orioles notebook: J.J. Hardy rejoins O's, Everth Cabrera placed on DL

NEW YORK — Orioles manager Buck Showalter made no secrets about how much his team has missed the presence of starting shortstop J.J. Hardy for the season's first 25 games.

Hardy, the American League Gold Glove winner at shortstop in each of the past three seasons, is the leader of the Orioles infield, and the team struggled defensively without him.

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So Showalter admitted it was reassuring to be able to write Hardy's name into starting for the first time this season. Hardy was activated from the 15-day disabled list before Thursday's series opener against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

"It's been a while obviously," Showalter said. "We've missed him. We missed the presence [just] as much — the ball security, the fundamentals, a lot of things that have been a challenge. … We've had situations, depth in the infield, relays, tags, coverage, bunt defenses, pickoffs, just some things. … We're doing OK, but there just wasn't that feeling of sometimes everyone being on the same page."

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Hardy made his season debut nearly six weeks after injuring his left shoulder while making a diving play during a spring training game.

"It was a lot longer than I expected, maybe longer than some people expected," Hardy said. "It's good to have it in the rear-view mirror and move forward. … It seemed like it was taking forever. I guess six weeks, right? Six weeks tomorrow. Yeah, it definitely took longer than I thought."

Hardy needed just three minor league rehabilitation games at Double-A Bowie before rejoining the team. Going into the rehab assignment, Hardy said he was concerned about feeling some discomfort on swing-and-misses when his top hand comes off, but he's feeling fine.

Since he has missed so much time, Hardy also didn't know how long it would take him to recover his timing at the plate. He was 4-for-12 in his three games with the Baysox.

"It wasn't terrible," he said. "I had some bad at-bats and my timing was a little bit off, but I think it went pretty well for the three games. After missing five or six weeks, it wasn't too bad. … It might take a few more games [to feel completely ready], but the main thing is the shoulder felt good and we will take it from there."

Showalter said it might take Hardy a few more games get adjusted to big league pitching, but he's confident that the shortstop is 100-percent healthy.

"He's ready to go," Showalter said. "We wouldn't have brought him back if we thought that was a challenge. We were not going to rush it. We could have done it earlier, but we want to get it all resolved in there. We felt we did. Regardless of what happens, it's still a different speed up here even."

Hardy said he will continue to keep the muscles around the shoulder strong to prevent any future problems with it.

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"I might [limit swings] if it starts to get sore at some point, but right now I feel like I can do everything and I'll do that as long as it feels good," Hardy said.

Struggling Cabrera heading to DL

In making 25-man roster space for Hardy, the Orioles placed infielder Everth Cabrera on the 15-day DL with a bruised left foot.

Before Thursday's game, the team planned to get X-rays on Cabrera's foot, which was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game against the New York Mets.

Cabrera remained in the game and was later caught off third base, killing the Orioles' best chance for a rally in their 5-1 loss to the Mets.

"He was a little sore today," Showalter said.

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After Thursday's game, Cabrera said he will undergo an MRI on Friday and that he's surprised the injury worsened.

"Yeah, I was kind of surprised because last night, it was about a 75 [mph] curveball that hit me on the top [of the foot]," Cabrera said. "I was playing normal, and I woke up this morning and it was really sore. It is [maybe] something in there. I've got an MRI tomorrow, so we'll see what happens."

Whether Cabrera's injury would have warranted a DL stint if the Orioles didn't need to make room for Hardy is unclear. But Cabrera has minor league options, so he could have been sent to Triple-A Norfolk.

Cabrera has been struggling at the plate. He is hitless in his last 17 at bats.

"Cabrera did a nice job for us and will hopefully contribute again," Showalter said.

Had the Orioles not placed Cabrera on the DL, they likely would have optioned infielder Rey Navarro to Triple-A, a move that will likely happen Friday when infielder Ryan Flaherty is eligible to be activated from the DL.

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Wieters extends himself in extended spring

Matt Wieters caught seven innings in an extended spring game Thursday, the most he has caught in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Wieters is catching every other day, but must still catch on back-to-back days before going on a minor league rehab assignment.

"He's had soreness, which is normal," Showalter said. "That's normal and nothing that's been in one spot all the time that would be alarming. It's moved around. It's not as much as it was, and it's not often. It's very normal what goes on during this period. It's that last step that he's got to get over before he starts playing."

Around the horn

Infielder Jonathan Schoop has been slow to resume baseball activities. He hoped to begin rehabbing his injured right knee with some pool work, but he's still waiting for the swelling to completely subside in the knee. He has already had the knee drained twice. … Showalter said even with the return of Flaherty, who played second base regularly after Schoop injured his right knee, the Orioles could still play Steve Pearce at second. Pearce hadn't played second base before last week. "Stevie can play a lot of places, Ryan can play a lot of places, Everth can play a lot of places," Showalter said. "I like our versatility."

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eencina@baltsun.com

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