Orioles manager Buck Showalter hasn't indicated how he plans to handle the starting shortstop position once J.J. Hardy returns from the disabled list, and when asked, he's said he has time to figure out whether hot-hitting leadoff man Tim Beckham or Hardy should hold the position moving forward.
Showalter is known for being a players' manager. He regularly leans on track record in making roster and lineup decisions, and he is loyal to veteran players.
So when the question of Showalter's loyalty came up — not directly mentioning the shortstop conundrum, but more an acknowledgment that it's been a criticism of Showalter — the manager shrugged his shoulder and asked why having loyalty should be a bad thing.
"Whereas loyalty to another human being is a bad trait? But not to the point where it jeopardizes the Orioles' success?" Showalter asked. "I don't know. If that's the worst thing they can say about me, then I'm OK with that. I think you have to have a long memory here, but I also think you have to have a short memory sometimes."
Showalter has made difficult decisions this season, bumping struggling slugger Chris Davis into the bottom third of the lineup and sending veteran starting pitcher Chris Tillman to the bullpen earlier this month among them, but conceded that his loyalty to players could be perceived as too strong.
"I probably stand accused of that, because I know a lot of things that people don't know about players," Showalter said. "It's tough. I'm trying to think of what an example would be. … I'm OK with that. And then has there ever been someone whose been accused of not being loyal enough? I don't know. Which one would you pick of the two?
"It depends on how you define loyalty. Is it a blind thing or is it something that has merit? You earn those type of things. It's an imperfect world, an imperfect sport played by guys who aren't perfect. Neither are coaches or managers. But there has to be a sense of consistency. They have to know what they're going to get. You can't be up, down, up, down, what have you done for me lately? But there also has to be a sense of urgency. At some point, that leash gets shortened, right?"
Hardy, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner who took third baseman Manny Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop under his wing and has helped Beckham, is the glue of the infield defense and respected in the clubhouse, but Beckham has provided unparalleled spark on offense since joining the club after a nonwaiver trade deadline deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Castro likely to return Wednesday
Right-handed reliever Miguel Castro is expected to return from the active roster Wednesday after spending three days on the bereavement list following the death of a close relative.
After Tuesday night's game, right-hander Alec Asher was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Asher pitched two-thirds of an inning in the ninth Monday and then pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Ubaldo Jimenez on Tuesday.
Even despite some recent short starts, Showalter had been able to stay with six relievers rather than carrying seven. Leaning on Castro, who provided scoreless 2 1/3-inning outings Friday and Saturday nights helps, but Showalter has also been careful not to overuse his relievers.
Some short efficient outings have helped. Darren O'Day and closer Zach Britton pitched Saturday and Sunday, but O'Day threw just 15 pitches over those two outings for a combined 1 2/3 innings. And Britton, who entered Sunday's game with two outs in the ninth for a one-third-inning save, threw just 18 pitches over a combined 1 1/3 innings Sunday and Monday night.
"We're going to continue to do the things it takes to keep them healthy," Showalter said before the game. "That's why Asher is here. He only threw one inning last night. That's why [Richard] Bleier has had two days off. That's why we would not pitch Mychal Givens last night. Some of the short outings Darren's had. We can use them more, [him and] Zach."
Around the horn
Hardy was scheduled to play six innings for Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday in his first minor league rehabilitation game. He will likely get a day off or serve as designated hitter Thursday, Showalter said. … Schoop’s three-run homer Monday gave him 91 RBIs, which is second most in a season in club history. He trails Roberto Alomar, who drove in 94 runs in 1996.