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J.J. Hardy foot injury could lead to hot-hitting Pedro Alvarez and others in the Orioles lineup

Baltimore Orioles' Pedro Alvarez follows the flight of his double off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer during the fifth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 25, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Baltimore Orioles' Pedro Alvarez follows the flight of his double off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer during the fifth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 25, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Chris OMeara / AP)

Twice over the weekend, manager Buck Showalter referenced the logjam of corner outfielders and designated hitter candidates that are hitting well as something he wasn't going to make a problem out of. He knew, however, the "seas would part" for someone before long.

J.J. Hardy is a shortstop, but his foot injury and the possible absence that could follow might in a roundabout way create a spot to get some of those bats in the lineup. And it's a player Showalter has said would end up needing his glove at some point this season who could benefit most: Pedro Alvarez.

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The Orioles' mid-spring addition to the hitting corps is rounding into form in the last week, going 7-for-12 since Monday and knocking his first home run out to right-center field in Saturday's 8-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Alvarez was the man who replaced Hardy in the lineup Sunday after he fouled a ball off his foot and saw it swell up too quickly for anyone's liking, playing third base with Manny Machado moving to shortstop. Any long-term absence by Hardy would require the team to add another infielder, likely Ryan Flaherty or maybe even Paul Janish.

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But as well as Flaherty has hit in his stint in Triple-A, Alvarez slotting in at third might be best for the team holistically, even if his defense at that position is a concern.

Alvarez's hot streak has coincided with those of several other Orioles. Everyday right fielder Mark Trumbo had one of the best months of his career in April and has six home runs. Rookie Joey Rickard is the team's leadoff hitter and hasn't shown that he's not an everyday player.

The reserves at the corners, Nolan Reimold and Hyun Soo Kim, are hitting too. Reimold is batting .343/.378/.686 with three home runs in 14 games, while Kim is 9-for-15 after his first three-hit game Saturday.

Alvarez playing third base opens up the designated hitter role for Trumbo, and allows Rickard to shift to right field while Kim and Reimold platoon in left field.

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The obvious drawback is defensively, where Machado will take over for Hardy as one of the best shortstops to wear a baseball mitt but Alvarez has struggled at third over the course of his career. The Pittsburgh Pirates made him a first baseman last year after he made 79 errors over three seasons at third base.

He had played one inning at third base earlier this week before coming in Sunday, but the ball always finds a player who is being challenged at a position, so the first batter of the sixth inning after Alvarez came into the game smoked a line-drive that bounced off his glove and went for a double. Another double was stung down the left-field line in the seventh inning, but Alvarez didn't have a play on it.

Showalter touts the work Alvarez has put in at third base and first base as he prepares for an opportunity like the one that's staring at him. There's definitely going to be a place for whichever infielder gets summoned from the minors, and who knows if Reimold will hold up with more playing time or Kim can keep up the strides he made over his month in the batting cage.

Losing Hardy for any length of time will be a real blow to the Orioles, and this scenario really suffers defensively. Showalter wasn't going to make a problem out of their glut of hot bats, so the universe did for him. This is one of many ways to accommodate them.

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