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Next season is crucial for Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy

Next season is crucial for Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy

In J.J. Hardy’s 12-year major league career, he’s played for three different teams, yet he’s never been a free agent. 

A year from now, that could be different. 

Hardy has twice eschewed free agency for three-year contracts with the Orioles, once in 2011, and again as the American League Championship Series began in 2014. 

He probably could have made more money as a free agent each time, but that doesn’t bother him. 

The Orioles were overjoyed when he agreed to a three-year extension with a fourth-year option that runs through 2017. Hardy’s three-year contract guaranteed him $40 million, and if he has 600 plate appearances next season, a $14 million option kicks in.

His option also vests if Hardy is traded, which isn’t likely, but as a 10-year major leaguer with five years of service he’d have to agree to. 

Hardy hasn’t had 600 plate appearances since 2013, and in 2016 when he had 438, he played in only 115 games. 

Not only would Hardy have to be healthy to get 600 plate appearances, but his teammates would have to hit well, too, since manager Buck Showalter usually batted him seventh, eighth or ninth. 

His injury in 2016 came when he fouled a ball off his foot and broke it. Hardy missed seven weeks but came back strongly. 

He played as often in 2016 as in 2015 when a variety of injuries slowed him, but his offensive numbers moved up. His batting average rose from .215 to .269 and his RBIs increased from 37 to 48. 

Not only did his offense come back, but his defense was much better in 2016, too. His defensive WAR increased from 1.1 to 1.3, far off from his Gold Glove seasons of 2012-14, but still fine. 

Hardy is never going to hit 30 home runs in a season again as he did in 2011. In his past three seasons, he’s combined for only 26, but he gives Showalter a dependable, heady shortstop who has worked brilliantly with both Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. 

Hardy came into spring training in terrific shape, and once he returned from his foot injury on June 18, he was rested only three times. 

A year from now, Hardy will be 35, and there are not many regular shortstops of that age, and while Machado, who played shortstop when Hardy was injured, would love to play there, the Orioles would like to put that move off for a while. 

While Hardy won’t be the biggest story of 2017, it will certainly be one worth watching. If he can have another season like this one, even if he doesn’t have 600 plate appearances, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Orioles extend him for another year or two. 

That way Hardy could end his career with the Orioles, and without testing free agency. He’ll say he didn’t miss anything. 

MORE ORIOLES: Will Hyun Soo Kim remain a fixture for O's in left field?

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."


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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm