CLEVELAND – Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy tested his sprained left thumb a few hours before game time Friday and told manager Buck Showalter that he was ready to play. So after missing three games, Hardy was back in the lineup Friday against the Cleveland Indians, batting sixth and playing shortstop.
Hardy was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a walk in the 2-1 loss in 11 innings.
"I came in today with a little bit of a question mark on how the baseball stuff was going to feel. I went out played catch, took some ground balls, took some swings and it felt good enough to play," said Hardy before the game. "I want to get out there. I feel like I am going to have to work through some soreness anyway, so whether it is today or (Saturday), I'd rather get started as soon as possible."
Hardy injured his thumb when his hand made contact with St. Louis Cardinals catcher A.J. Pierzynski's leg while sliding at home plate on Saturday afternoon. He was scratched from Sunday's game and hasn't played since. A MRI confirmed it was just a sprain.
Hardy said the thumb is still sore, but he expects that will be the case no matter when he resumes playing.
"Whether I played today, tomorrow, Sunday, I think I am going to have to play through a little soreness," he said. "Hopefully, it's not the rest-of-the-year soreness. But I think it is soreness I can play through."
On Wednesday, the Orioles had to play a full game without their usual left side of the infield after third baseman Manny Machado was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee ligament.
Hardy said he felt no pressure to return quickly to stabilize the infield, which on Wednesday featured utility man Ryan Flaherty at shortstop and first baseman Chris Davis at third base. With Hardy returning to shortstop, Flaherty started at third base.
"It's something that I know if I go out there and hurt my self worse and make myself unavailable for another couple weeks, I think that would be the worst thing for the team," Hardy said. "The guys have been doing fine without us, so it's not necessarily something that I'm trying to rush back into. But I just want to be out there."
If it is up to him, Hardy said he would play all three games this weekend in Cleveland.
"I expect to. I don't want to play a day and take a day off," he said. "I want to be able to go the rest of the year and I think, granted if it doesn't get worse, I'll be able to do that."
Here are the lineups for Friday:
Orioles: Markakis 9, Davis 3, Jones 8, Cruz 7, Young DH, Hardy 6, Flaherty 5, Joseph 2, Schoop 4. Chen 1.
Indians: Jason Kipnis 4, Mike Aviles 5, Michael Brantley 8, Carlos Santana 3, Yan Gomes 2, Ryan Raburn 7, Zach Walters DH, Tyler Holt 9, Jose Ramirez 6. Corey Kluber 1.