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Ravens place Monroe on IR, promote Renner to 53-man roster

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe officially saw his 2015 season come to an end on Saturday.

The decision to place him on injured reserve could also represent the end of his time with the Ravens. Having already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Seattle, Monroe hadn’t played since re-aggravating a previous shoulder ailment on Nov. 22 and started just six games this season, finishing three.

The shoulder was just the latest injury to plague the 28-year-old left tackle, who is in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed. After signing that deal in March 2014, Monroe will have started just 17 of 34 games (counting the postseason) through the 2015 season, often leaving the Ravens no choice but to turn to former undrafted free agent James Hurst at left tackle. Pro Football Focus has graded Hurst 75th out of 76 qualifying offensive tackles in the NFL while Monroe was 23rd, a disappointment considering his level of compensation.

Monroe’s early exit against St. Louis in Week 11 preceded Hurst falling into Joe Flacco’s left knee on the final drive of the game, causing two torn ligaments that required season-ending surgery for the franchise quarterback. After missing only four games in his first five seasons, the 2009 first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars hasn’t been able to stay on the field at a crucial position after the Ravens made him one of the better-paid left tackles in the NFL.

Scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and to carry an $8.7 million cap figure for the 2016 season, Monroe is a candidate to be released with a pre-June 1 designation, which would clear $2.1 million in cap space. However, his release would leave $6.6 million in dead money on the 2016 salary cap and require general manager Ozzie Newsome to address the left tackle position via the draft, free agency, or the trade market.

With veteran Matt Schaub questionable for Sunday’s game with a chest injury and the recently-signed Jimmy Clausen likely to start against the Seahawks, the Ravens promoted quarterback Bryn Renner from the practice squad on Saturday, a clear sign pointing toward Schaub not playing. Renner spent the entire offseason with the Ravens before being cut in early September. He was signed to the practice squad earlier in the week.

Baltimore also promoted former Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews to the 53-man roster and waived guard Kaleb Johnson. Matthews was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 23 and was a standout performer in Super Bowl XLIX, catching four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 28-24 loss to New England.

Having been on the practice squad since the start of the season, Johnson was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 30 and appeared in one game. The Rutgers product would figure to be a strong candidate to be re-signed to the practice squad should he clear waivers.

Rookie safety Nick Perry was also re-signed to the practice squad on Saturday.

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Schaub questionable, Gillmore doubtful for Seattle game

Posted on 11 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — John Harbaugh wasn’t tipping his hand about his quarterback situation on Friday, but the Ravens coach doesn’t think Seattle is waiting with bated breath over who will be under center, either.

After missing his third straight practice with what’s been listed as a chest injury, Matt Schaub was officially designated as questionable for Sunday’s game. Should Schaub not be able to play, sixth-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen would make his first start for the Ravens after being claimed off waivers from Chicago on Nov. 24.

“I don’t think it matters to the Seahawks. They don’t care,” Harbaugh said. “They’re going to play against our offense. That’s what they’re getting ready for. That’s not going to matter to them. But we really don’t know yet.”

According to Harbaugh, Schaub worked out on his own on Thursday while Clausen continued to receive the starting reps in practice with the newly-signed quarterback Bryn Renner working behind him. After expressing optimism on Wednesday regarding his status, Schaub declined an interview request in the locker room following Friday’s practice.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has constructed a menu of plays for Clausen as he continues to get up to speed with the Baltimore offense in a short period of time. He said he’s feeling more comfortable working with center John Urschel and starting receivers Kamar Aiken and Chris Givens after he did not receive first-team reps in his previous two weeks with Baltimore.

Schaub has prepared to play from a mental standpoint while resting a body that was battered in last Sunday’s loss to Miami.

“There’s no sense in putting him out here in practice where he can get banged and bumped around,” Harbaugh said. “But if he can go, he will. If it’s best for our team for Jimmy to go, then that’s the way we’ll do it there.”

Should Clausen start against the Seahawks, he would come the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start two games against the same opponent in a season while playing for two different teams. The 2010 second-round pick from Notre Dame can only hope the results are better this time around after the Bears were shut out in a 26-0 final in Week 3.

“It’s crazy to think of it,” said Clausen was asked about potentially making history. “I’ve seen crazier things happen to me and to other guys in the league before, so we’ll see what happens.”

Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) and wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) were both listed as doubtful after missing practice all week. Rookie tight end Maxx Williams has been fully cleared from the concussion protocol and is probable to play against the Seahawks. He would be in line to start with Gillmore likely out and fellow rookie Nick Boyle suspended for the rest of the season.

To no surprise, the Ravens officially ruled out left tackle Eugene Monroe, who will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury and has started just six games all season.

In the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract, Monroe has started and finished just three games in 2015. Harbaugh hinted at the possibility of the 28-year-old being placed on season-ending injured reserve, but nothing had been made official as of Friday afternoon.

That resolution could mean the end of Monroe’s time in Baltimore as he simply hasn’t been reliable over the last two seasons at one of the most important positions on the field.

“He’s not going to play this week,” Harbaugh said. “Any other announcements beyond that, season-wise, a decision has been made, but I don’t think it’s really for me to announce it at this time. We’ll let Eugene or Ozzie [Newsome] announce what the plans are with that.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was added to the injury report as a limited participant in Friday’s practice because of a knee issue, but he was designated as probable to play. Nose tackle Brandon Williams (shoulder) and right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) were also probable after missing practice on Wednesday and being limited the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, Seattle officially ruled out defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (concussion) and declared defensive tackle Jordan Hill (toe) as doubtful to play. Running back Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) was already ruled out for Sunday’s game earlier in the week.

The referee for Sunday’s game is Walt Coleman.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for Sunday calls for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the high 60s and winds up to four miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder)
DOUBTFUL: WR Marlon Brown (back), TE Crockett Gillmore (back)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Matt Schaub (chest)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (non-injury), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), OT Rick Wagner (ankle), DT Brandon Williams (shoulder), TE Maxx Williams (concussion)

SEATTLE
OUT: DE Demarcus Dobbs (concussion), RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen)
DOUBTFUL: DT Jordan Hill (toe)
PROBABLE: DE Cliff Avril (non-injury), DE Michael Bennett (non-injury)

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Change remaining constant for Ravens offense

Posted on 09 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It was just a run-of-the-mill practice for the Ravens offense on Wednesday as the group continued preparations for a Week 14 meeting with the surging Seattle Seahawks.

Jimmy Clausen was the No. 1 quarterback.

Buck Allen played running back after the rookie began the season third on the depth chart.

Kamar Aiken, Chris Givens, and Jeremy Butler were the top three wide receivers.

The top tight end was Konrad Reuland — yes, the former practice-squad member just promoted to the 53-man roster a day earlier.

And the offensive line? Tackles Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and Rick Wagner (ankle) were absent — after center Jeremy Zuttah was already lost for the season last month — leaving one to ponder what that unit might have looked like after the portion of practice open to reporters concluded.

The only constant for the Baltimore offense these days is change as veteran quarterback Matt Schaub — already replacing franchise starter Joe Flacco — sat out Wednesday’s practice with what was listed as a chest injury. Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) was also absent while rookie Maxx Williams (concussion) returned to practice wearing a red non-contact jersey, signaling he hasn’t yet been fully cleared after missing Sunday’s game in Miami.

“We’re pretty numb to it now. It is what it is,” Aiken said. “We’re just rolling, to be honest. We really haven’t had any time to sit back and really think about all the injuries or sit here and sulk on them. We’re going as it goes.”

Also missing from Wednesday’s practice included nose tackle Brandon Williams (shoulder), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who was given a veteran day off.

Schaub expressed confidence that he would be able to play, adding that it was head coach John Harbaugh’s decision to sit him out and give some much-needed practice reps to Clausen. At 4-8, the Ravens are keeping their options open at the position with an eye toward determining who can best fill the backup role next year with Flacco unlikely to be ready until some point in training camp.

“As a competitor, you want to be out there,” Schaub said. “I’m gearing all my mindset and everything towards Sunday.”

As expected, the Seahawks have already ruled out running back Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) for Sunday’s game. Starting defensive end Cliff Avril sat out Wednesday’s practice for non-injury reasons.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder), QB Matt Schaub (chest), OT Rick Wagner (ankle), DT Brandon Williams (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Maxx Williams (concussion)

SEATTLE
OUT: RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Demarcus Dobbs (concussion), DT Jordan Hill (toe), DE Cliff Avril (non-injury)

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Ravens making contingency plans at quarterback for Seattle

Posted on 09 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — John Harbaugh was coy when initially asked about the health of Ravens quarterback Matt Schaub on Wednesday.

The head coach was addressing reporters after a morning walk-through the 34-year-old quarterback attended. In addition to slamming his head on the ground in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to Miami, Schaub was also dealing with shoulder and knee soreness as the Ravens fell to 4-8 on the season.

“He’s doing good. He’s banged up a little bit, and he’s sore,” said Harbaugh while smiling. “He’s doing good. He’s doing well. Great guy — smile on his face. You saw him right out here.”

Harbaugh has expressed optimism that Schaub will be able to play in Sunday’s meeting with the Seattle Seahawks, but the head coach has left open the possibility of backup Jimmy Clausen playing in Week 14. Claimed off waivers from Chicago on Nov. 24, Clausen started in place of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler at Seattle on Sept. 27 and went 9-for-17 for 63 yards in a 26-0 loss.

Already decimated by injuries at wide receiver and tight end, the Ravens will be facing the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense. Seattle ranks 11th in the league in sacks, but Baltimore already lost starting center Jeremy Zuttah for the season last month and is waiting on the status of left tackle Eugene Monroe, who has missed the last two games with a lingering shoulder injury.

That doesn’t sound like a promising recipe for a banged-up Schaub.

“I usually don’t rate it, but it’s going to be, probably, just a tolerance issue and how well he moves around and stuff,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not going to practice him too much early in the week. It’s good to get Jimmy the reps anyway. Jimmy needs the reps more than Matt does. But if Matt can go, he will.

“Matt’s tough — he showed that in the game. He’s tough as nails. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see him play. Maybe we’ll play them both. We’ll just see how it goes.”

The Ravens are making contingency plans in case Schaub cannot play as they signed quarterback Bryn Renner to the practice squad. The 25-year-old represented the best available option to be ready to serve as a backup on short notice if Clausen is forced into starting action.

Renner spent the entire spring and preseason with the Ravens and began the year on the practice squad before being released in mid-September. The University of North Carolina product completed 43 of 65 passes for 409 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions in the 2015 preseason.

“Bryn knows the offense, and he’s talented and he’s conscientious,” Harbaugh said. “It seemed like a good fit for us in the situation that we’re in right now. It’s not a guy who we have to bring in and teach, and he’s got talent. We’re very fortunate that he was still available.”

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Ravens add two tight ends to 53-man roster

Posted on 08 December 2015 by Luke Jones

With the tight end position decimated by injuries and the suspension to rookie Nick Boyle, the Ravens added veterans Konrad Reuland and Richard Gordon to the 53-man roster on Tuesday.

With Monday’s news of Boyle being suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Ravens were left with no healthy tight ends on the active roster with rookie tight end Maxx Williams recovering from a concussion and starter Crockett Gillmore leaving Sunday’s loss to Miami with a back injury.

Head coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism that Williams and Gillmore could play in Week 14, but the additions of Reuland and Gordon suggest the status of each incumbent being questionable at best.

Reuland has spent much of the season on Baltimore’s practice squad after being with the team during the preseason. The 28-year-old Stanford product collected 12 receptions for 90 yards in two seasons with the New York Jets and has also spent time with the San Francisco and Indianapolis organizations in his career.

“He has been practicing with us pretty much all year,” said Harbaugh about Reuland on Monday. “He knows what we are doing, and he can play the position”

Gordon, 28, has four career receptions and one touchdown in his NFL career that’s been spent with Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Denver. The 2011 sixth-round pick out of the University of Miami is regarded as more of a blocking tight end and was recently cut by the Broncos.

The Ravens also added tight end Harold Spears to their practice squad on Tuesday. He was recently with the Seattle Seahawks, who will visit M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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Ravens planning for banged-up Schaub to play against Seattle

Posted on 07 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says Matt Schaub remains his starting quarterback, but the veteran’s status will be monitored ahead of the Week 14 meeting with Seattle.

In addition to being tested for a concussion after slamming his head on the ground in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to Miami, Schaub came out of the game nursing knee and shoulder ailments that could limit his practice time this week. Backup Jimmy Clausen will likely see an increased number of practice reps, but Harbaugh is expecting Schaub to make his third straight start and first at home against the Seahawks.

“He was bounced around pretty good in the game — too much,” said Harbaugh, alluding to Miami registering three sacks and 10 quarterback hits. “We’ll see how he makes it through the week, but I think he’s going to be OK. He’s a tough guy. We’re planning on Matt being the quarterback.”

With Schaub having thrown two interceptions returned for touchdowns in as many weeks, some fans have already begun clamoring for the younger Clausen to receive an opportunity. Signed only two weeks ago, the 2010 second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers is still learning the Ravens playbook, but his familiarity with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman from their days in Chicago last year has accelerated the learning curve.

Expectations should be tempered for either quarterback given the shortage of weapons around them, but the Ravens would certainly like to determine if Schaub — or Clausen — can play at a level worthy of being retained as the backup quarterback next season. For now, the Ravens are sticking with the 34-year-old veteran, but that won’t necessarily remain the case for the rest of the season.

“There are always thoughts on everything, so we’ll consider everything,” Harbaugh said. “Matt is the quarterback; Jimmy is the backup quarterback.”

Monroe’s status remains unclear

Left tackle Eugene Monroe missed his sixth game of the season on Sunday, and it remains uncertain whether he will return this season, according to Harbaugh.

Re-injuring his shoulder against St. Louis on Nov. 22, Monroe has missed the last two games and has started and finished just three games all season. The Ravens have been forced to turn to second-year tackle James Hurst, who has struggled mightily trying to protect the blindside.

“It’s just unfortunate for Eugene. He has had the shoulder issues that have been nagging him,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s up for another [magnetic resonance imaging exam] on Wednesday. Between him, his doctor and his agent, he’ll have to make a decision about whether he wants to play with it for the rest of the year.”

Flacco to undergo surgery on Tuesday

Injured quarterback Joe Flacco is set to undergo surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Tuesday.

Flacco was injured on Nov. 22, but the swelling in his knee needed to subside before he could undergo the procedure. Renowned sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews was scheduled to perform the surgery in Alabama at 10 a.m. on Tuesday after Flacco underwent a pre-surgical examination on Monday.

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Ravens-Seahawks game flexed out of Sunday night spot

Posted on 29 November 2015 by Luke Jones

In the midst of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, the Ravens officially learned Sunday night that they will miss out on hosting a prime-time game next month.

The NFL announced that Baltimore’s Dec. 13 game against Seattle that was originally scheduled for NBC’s Sunday Night Football has been flexed to that afternoon. Instead, a game between Houston and New England will now kick off at 8:30 p.m on that night.

The league announced the Ravens-Seahawks game will now begin at M&T Bank Stadium at 1 p.m. and will be televised on FOX.

Though Seattle currently holds the No. 6 seed in the NFC and collected a big home victory against Pittsburgh on Sunday to improve to 6-5, the 3-7 Ravens saw their already-faint playoff hopes crushed with the season-ending knee injury suffered by quarterback Joe Flacco last Sunday. Most had predicted for weeks that the Week 14 tilt would be moved out of the coveted Sunday night time slot.

It remains unclear whether the NFL will also move the Ravens’ Dec. 27 home game against Pittsburgh out of the Sunday night slot.

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Lovely city. Lovely views. Another knockoff of Camden Yards. And waiting for Seahawks season. That's Seattle baseball.

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 18 Seattle Mariners

Posted on 22 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Seattle – I attended the All-Star Game at Safeco in 2002 and was really looking forward to a return visit. What I found was simply yet another Camden Yards knockoff in a city that is crazed with lime green and football. The vaunted sunset deck in left field was tiny. The bowl of the stadium is kind of sleepy. It’s just another shiny new-ish stadium that lacks historical context and charm. Friendly people, beautiful city, nice enough stadium. But nothing special going on here from a vibe standpoint…unless you say the word “Seahawks”…

***

On Sept. 8-9-10, I will be releasing an extensive essay documenting my 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit journey of 2015. You can read it and all of my work here: http://wnst.net/author/nestoraparicio/

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No-hitter latest symbol of frustration for 2015 Orioles

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Three clubs with better records than the Orioles have also been on the wrong end of a no-hitter this season, making Wednesday’s loss nothing to be outraged over beyond the short-term embarrassment and attention it creates.

It may be a symbol of frustration for the Orioles and their fans, but the no-hitter isn’t a defining moment of doom considering the first-place New York Mets and the current National League wild cards — Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs — were all no-hit earlier this season.

Seattle Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma was sensational in not only pitching the first no-hitter of his career, but it was the 2013 All-Star selection’s first career complete game in the majors. The 34-year-old Japanese pitcher deserves credit for a masterful performance as the Orioles rarely even made good contact in the 3-0 loss at Safeco Field.

It was the first time an opponent had thrown a no-hitter against the Orioles since Boston’s Clay Buchholz in 2007. Before that, it was Red Sox pitcher Hideo Nomo pitching the first no-hitter at Camden Yards in 2001 and Wilson Avarez doing it for the Chicago White Sox in the Orioles’ final season at Memorial Stadium.

Iwakuma was the first non-Boston pitcher who wasn’t making his second major league start — Buchholz and Alvarez each held the latter status with theirs — to do it against the Orioles since Milwaukee’s Juan Nieves pitched a no-no on April 15, 1987.

Beyond its historical footprint, the no-hit effort marked the end of a disappointing road trip in which the Orioles again showed their inability to play well on the road. Despite playing six games against two of the worst teams in the American League, Baltimore only managed a 4-5 record on the trip, bringing its 2015 road record to an underwhelming 25-36.

A win against the Mariners on Wednesday would have only made for a 5-4 trip, but it would have been a winning mark leaving a better taste in the Orioles’ mouths as they enter Thursday’s off-day and prepare to begin an important 10-game homestand this weekend.

Taking nothing away from Iwakuma’s performance, a simple look at the Orioles lineup on Wednesday says it all about how frustrating the offense has been for large portions of the season.

Replacing the struggling J.J. Hardy at shortstop on Wednesday, Ryan Flaherty is now in the midst of an 0-for-33 nightmare. David Lough is hitting .202 on the season and is one of several options in left field offering nothing at the plate. And despite hitting .353 in his first 122 plate appearances of 2015, designated hitter Jimmy Paredes has hit .233 with a .598 on-base plus slugging percentage since May 23.

A club that’s supposed to be contending simply can’t afford to have multiple colossal holes in its lineup, especially when sporting a suspect starting rotation and a suddenly-shallow bullpen.

The math still says the Orioles remain in the hunt in both the AL East and the wild-card race, but we’re still waiting for them to find consistency after 113 games. At this point, what exactly should we expected to change over the final 49 contests?

Whether it was winning 18 of 23 in June or taking seven of eight in late July, manager Buck Showalter’s club has quickly reverted to mediocrity after their hottest streaks of the season instead of steadily earning more victories that defeats like they did over the final three months of 2014. The task of simply winning series — slow and steady wins the race, right? — has proven too much, especially on the road.

Before dropping consecutive games to conclude the Seattle series, the Orioles had alternated wins and losses over the first nine games of August, an appropriate snapshot of what the 2015 club’s identity continues to be.

That of a .500-ish club that just isn’t quite good enough.

Wednesday’s no-hitter wasn’t anything more than what it was in the standings — another loss — but it’s the latest example of frustration in a season full of them.

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Hardy delivers key hit while trying to find bearings at plate

Posted on 21 May 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With so much attention paid to the free agents who departed in the offseason, we often forget about the one the Orioles didn’t allow to get away.

Re-signed to a three-year, $40 million contract on the eve of the 2014 American League Championship Series, Hardy is still finding his bearings at the plate after missing six weeks with a left shoulder strain. But the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning of Thursday’s 5-4 win over Seattle had Hardy and the Orioles feeling much better.

How does his shoulder feel with two weeks of games under his belt?

“Good and the rest of the body [feels good],” said Hardy, who singled sharply up the middle off right-hander Danny Farquhar to plate Chris Davis and give the Orioles a series win. “That first week I came back felt like spring training all over again and my whole body was sore. But everything feels good now.”

With initial concerns about his shoulder now at ease, the 32-year-old is still trying to find his way with the bat despite hitting two home runs in his first eight games. It’s the second straight year in which an injury has disrupted the start of Hardy’s season after a back ailment suffered in the first week of the 2014 season lingered all year.

As a result of the cranky back, the shortstop hit just nine homers in 2014 after he’d averaged just under 26 per season in each of his first three years in Baltimore. That’s what has made his early home runs an encouraging sign in 2015 despite Hardy slugging just .348 in his first 48 plate appearances.

Thursday’s game-winning hit provided a boost as the Orioles have struggled to score runs in the month of May.

“It’s nice to get hits when you’re feeling like I feel right now,” Hardy said. “Every day I’m making adjustments. I feel like one day I go up there with a different stance [and] next at-bat a different stance. I’m just trying to feel something that feels good and have something to work off of, so it’s definitely nice getting hits when you’re not feeling great.”

Hardy’s defense alone makes him a valuable commodity, but the Orioles need his traditional offensive contributions to help make up for the problems they’re experiencing at the corner outfield spots, traditional run-producing positions.

Of course, manager Buck Showalter isn’t panicking over the veteran infielder’s start, trusting that Hardy will make the necessary adjustments after a long layoff that cost him the first 25 games of the season.

“He’s not there yet where he’s going to be offensively, but he found a way to get it done [Thursday],” Showalter said. “His confidence is fine. With his track record, it’s not his first year in the big leagues. He doesn’t have to get a hit May 20 to be confident. We all know.”

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