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Hardy fondly remembers brief stint with Twins

August 22, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS — J.J. Hardy said he never expected to be traded by the Twins until reporters brought it up to himas he was cleaning out his locker at the end of last year.

It was not until then that he realized it was a definite possibility. But when the trade did happen, Hardy still was not happy about it.

“When I left here, I was mad. I enjoyed my time here, I made a lot of friends,” Hardy said before Monday’s opener against the Twins at Target Field. “It felt like a slap in the face a little bit to me at the time. I miss all these guys, still, but I definitely love it in Baltimore.”

The trade has worked out much better so far for Hardy and the Orioles than it has for the Twins. The shortstop is enjoying a bounce-back season, hitting .268 with 23 home runs and 59 RBIs in 94 games after just six homers and 38 RBIs over 101 games in his one injury-shortened season with Minnesota.

Hardy signed a three-year extension with the Orioles last month, ensuring he’ll remain in Baltimore for the near future.

The biggest difference in his success, Hardy said, has been health. While he did miss a month with an oblique strain, Hardy has not had to deal with the wrist issues that plagued him throughout the 2010 season.

“My wrist really bothered me, and it affected the way I swung the bat,” Hardy said. “This year, being healthy, it’s allowed me to do what I feel like I’m capable of.

“The wrist, it’s a big part of the swing.”

Questions about his ability to stay healthy played a role in the Twins’ decision to trade Hardy to the Orioles in the offseason.

But with Hardy being healthy for the most part this year, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he was not surprised by Hardy’s production.

“He’s had it in the past. Last year he was just beat up with us with numerous different injuries,” Gardenhire said. “He’s put up pretty good numbers in the past and that’s why we signed him. But last year, injuries beat him up with us.”

This week marks the first “homecoming” type series for Hardy, who did not make the trip with the Twins to Milwaukee — where he spent his first five big league seasons — last year because he was on the disabled list at the time.

Hardy said he’s been following what the Twins have been doing, and the performances of his closer friends on the team in particular. He also said he was happy to be back at Target Field and see so many familiar faces.

“I think it’d be a little different in Milwaukee, but we’ll see tonight how it is,” said Hardy, who was not sure what to expect from Twins fans.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he had no concerns about Hardy trying a little too hard to perform well against his former team and in front of Twins fans.

“J.J.’s not that vindictive. J.J. is as good a human being as you’ll find,” Showalter said. “But he’s competitive. … It’s not something that’s a topic of conversation with him, in the advanced meeting there was none of that. In fact, he was real positive on their organization and their players.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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