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J.J. Hardy has by far been the Orioles' best addition in 2011. Buck Showalter is very aware of the 6-foot-1 present Andy MacPhail wrapped in a bow and delivered to his roster.
"I can't imagine anyone playing shortstop at a higher level," Showalter said. "Probably one of the most accurate arms I've ever coached."
Hardy currently leads American League shortstops in fielding percentage, but his slick defense has been upstaged by his bat since coming off the disabled list. Since May 21, Hardy leads major league shortstops in home runs (9) and slugging percentage (.623). He is second in average (.338), runs scored (23) and on-base percentage (.400).
Amber Theoharis sits down with J.J. Hardy to discuss his season so far and wanting to stay in Baltimore
"I think my approach is a big thing, my health is a big thing and Press is huge," Hardy said. "Jim Pressley has been huge for me. He's kind of helped me find my approach that I had in '07-'08."
Hardy was an All-Star in 2007, but after two down years and two trades, Hardy found himself robotic at the plate, trying to emulate the approach he took in his successful seasons with the Brewers.
"It didn't feel right," Hardy said. "After my first round of BP at spring training this year Pressley pulled me aside and said 'What are you trying to do up there?' I said, 'I don't know, hit the ball hard. Go the other way.' He was like, 'No, that's not what we're looking for. When I saw you in '07-'08 you were turning on balls, you were trying to hit homers.' I was like, 'Alright.' It was basically what I wanted to hear."
Hardy's success leads to one question: Are the Orioles going to sign the 28-year-old to a long-term deal?
"I would definitely be open to it," Hardy said. "I've expressed openly that I like it here. I like playing for Buck. I like the guys. Baltimore has been great. I feel like I'd definitely be open to it, and I think they just started ... (my agents) just started talking. They haven't expressed any numbers or anything, but they have started talking just to get some feelers out there."
Signing Hardy to an extension seems like a no-brainer, especially for a ballclub that has struggled to find a viable option at the infield's most high profile position since Miguel Tejada originally left in 2007.
Hear my complete interview with J.J. Hardy on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report this Friday at 5:30 p.m. on MASN.