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Hardy on mend, but what will O's do at short?

MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has already racked up 15 innings -- a full nine on Monday and six innings on Tuesday -- in the first two games of his rehab assignment since being placed on the disabled list on June 19 with a right wrist fracture.

Despite missing about two months of baseball, Hardy is trying to get himself full strength as quickly as possible to rejoin his team. But, with his return, what happens to newly-acquired shortstop Tim Beckham?

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BALTIMORE -- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has already racked up 15 innings -- a full nine on Monday and six innings on Tuesday -- in the first two games of his rehab assignment since being placed on the disabled list on June 19 with a right wrist fracture.

Despite missing about two months of baseball, Hardy is trying to get himself full strength as quickly as possible to rejoin his team. But, with his return, what happens to newly-acquired shortstop Tim Beckham?

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In his first 14 games in an Orioles uniform, Beckham was superhuman, hitting .500 (29-for-58) with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs and 10 RBIs. But as of late, the newly-acquired Oriole has had to settle for more human-like numbers, hitting .258 with a home run in his last seven games, including his 1-for-4 night in the Orioles' 6-4 loss to Oakland on Tuesday.

Video: BAL@SEA: Beckham leads off the game with a homer

If Beckham continues to level out and Hardy gets back to full strength, Orioles manager Buck Showalter will have a tough decision as to who will take the starting shortstop position.

"So many things can change. It could be five days away. It could be two weeks away. Who knows?" Showalter said of Hardy's return. "If you held a gun to my head right now, I know what I'd do, but I don't have to do that yet and let's take everything into play before we get there."

On Tuesday night, Hardy picked up his first hit of his rehab assignment with a two-out single up the middle in the first inning of Triple-A Norfolk's game. In his six innings, he went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored after drawing the short straw Monday night having to face Michael Kopech, who was traded by the Red Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

"Things went well with J.J. [on Monday]," Showalter said. "They said they faced one of the guys the Red Sox traded for Chris Sale. [Kopech] was averaging 97 [mph] last night. J.J.'s first at-bat, [Kopech] was touching 100. Welcome back."

Although his numbers weren't where he'd want them to be prior to his injury, batting just .211, Hardy was starting to heat up in his last seven games in June hitting .304 with four doubles, three runs scored and three RBIs. If he picks up where he left off, Baltimore will be left to decide whether to go with the newly-acquired Oriole or a team veteran.

Showalter said that Hardy will play six innings again on Wednesday and will either serve as the designated hitter or take Thursday's 12:05 p.m. ET game off and the team will wait until Hardy thinks he's Major League ready.

"You know, pitchers are different than hitters," Showalter said. "You can't make them go down there for two or three weeks. They don't want to. A guy like J.J., he'll tell us when he's ready. There's so much respect for him in the clubhouse and everyone's looking forward to getting him back."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles, Tim Beckham, J.J. Hardy