J.J. Hardy, who has been out since May 2 with a fracture in his left foot, is at Camden Yards on Friday, working out on the field and taking batting practice.
He’ll likely be activated Saturday or Sunday; Orioles manager Buck Showalter suggested that Hardy could play one game at Single-A Frederick before returning so he can test his baserunning one more time before returning to the big leagues.
Knowing Hardy, though, you have to imagine he is back and starting at shortstop as soon as possible, which would be Saturday.
The Orioles will have to make room for him on the 25-man roster; the logical move would be designating defensive stalwart Paul Janish, who has played excellent defense, but is hitting .185. He could be lost on waivers, however. Ryan Flaherty, who is hitting .208, can be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. So that may be a consideration, but one of the reserve infielders will be gone.
The important thing here for the Orioles is that Hardy will definitely be back before Manny Machado has to serve his four-game suspension for fighting with Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura.
Machado’s hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, but he may decide to cancel the hearing and just start serving the suspension before then.
Because the best the Orioles can hope for is having it reduced from four games to three. And he’d have to begin serving it as soon as the decision is rendered – which likely would be Wednesday or Thursday.
So that means – best-case scenario – Machado gets it reduced to three, misses Wednesday’s game against San Diego and then two against a division rival, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Showalter made it clear Friday that he doesn’t want Machado to miss a lot of games versus teams in the AL East.
Given all that, the most likely scenario — in my opinion — is for Machado to drop his appeal before Monday’s game at Texas. Miss that one-game road trip to Arlington – which is a pain anyway — miss the two versus San Diego and then just one versus Tampa Bay on Friday.
And then he would be back for Saturday’s doubleheader versus the Rays at Camden Yards.
By the way, in case it was ever in doubt, Hardy will return to shortstop and Machado will go back to third. Showalter said he’s already talked to Machado, and they all agreed it’s the best decision for the team.