ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It's still going to be several weeks until J.J. Hardy returns as the Orioles' starting shortstop, but Ruben Tejada has done a creditable job playing much of the time in Hardy's place.
Tejada, who was purchased from the New York Yankees June 4, filled in for Manny Machado at third base for four games when Machado was hurt, and since Hardy broke his right wrist, Tejada has usually started at shortstop.
He had a slow start at the plate after Hardy was injured June 18, going 2-for-22 to end the month, but he's heated up in July, recording three, three-hit games: July 9, 18 and 20.
After going 0-for-3 during the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays July 25, Tejada is batting .258 with four RBIs in 35 games.
While with the Mets in 2015, Tejada suffered a broken right leg when the Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley slid into him at second base during the National League Divisional Series. But Tejada said he is healthy these days.
"No pain in my legs," Tejada said. "Nothing bothers me, and I'm feeling really good."
As one would expect, Tejada is happy to be playing regularly.
"It's different when you're playing every day," he said. "Stay in the middle of the field, take one at-bat at a time and concentrate on that one."
Tejada has enjoyed playing with Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
"It's really fun. It's different when you saw it on TV, and [now] it's right there," Tejada said. "They're really happy all the time; it's fun playing with them."
Manager Buck Showalter has also used Schoop and Paul Janish at shortstop, but he's happy now with Tejada there.
"Because he's showed us more and more that he feels confident in our confidence in him," Showalter said. "I think everything's kind of relaxed. He came from another organization, didn't know anybody, just kind of showed up. We picked his friends for him. I think the last week or so he's looked a lot more comfortable, just in the whole tempo and what we ask of a shortstop.
"... It's been fun to watch. He's been good."
Hardy, who will turn 35 Aug. 19, is an impending free agent. There's no obvious successor to Hardy in the high minor leagues, and if the Orioles don't trade for or sign a veteran shortstop in the offseason, Tejada -- who also can play second and third base -- might be a consideration for next season.
Utility player Ryan Flaherty, who's been out since May 18 with a right shoulder injury, also is an impending free agent. Flaherty is a left-handed hitter (Tejada bats right-handed) and can play everywhere in the infield as well as the corner outfield positions.
NOTE: Hardy will visit hand specialist Dr. Kenneth Means to examine his wrist July 31. If cleared, Hardy can begin preparations for a rehab assignment.
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