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Hardy's stability at shortstop and in the lineup will be a welcomed sight for the Orioles

Birdland's favorite shortstop has been on the road to recovery longer than expected, but J.J. Hardy's eventual return to the field will provide a much-needed boost for the Orioles.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At the time, the signing of Everth Cabrera seemed to be nothing more than an insurance policy.

Even more so for a team like the Orioles, who are especially crafty with the comings and goings of players on the fringe of the roster. Cabrera was signed to a team-friendly 2.4M deal that offered the O's a lot of flexibility, given the availability of a minor league option as well as an extra season of club control.

Cabrera was given the opportunity to redeem himself after an atrocious 2014 season, a PED suspension and off-the-field issues, and for the Orioles, there really wasn't a downside to adding a guy that happened to be an All-Star only two seasons ago.

However, the O's had to cash in on their insurance policy a little earlier than expected.

Fresh off an October 3-year, $40M extension, shortstop J.J. Hardy no longer had money talks clouding his mind. Hardy entered the spring with a clear-head and the assurance he was as important a piece to the future success of the Orioles as any of the other 24 men on the active roster. Unfortunately for Hardy and the city of Baltimore, a strained left shoulder at the latter end of Spring Training delayed the Orioles' shortstop from cashing in an immediate return on the team's investment.

As a result of Hardy's placement on the disabled list, Cabrera was thrust into a starting role at shortstop, and at the beginning of April, the idea of the ex-Padre filling in for Hardy didn't seem all that bad. Cabrera had a history of ups and downs, but based on the numbers, he seemed likely to be about as good a replacement as any team could find.

But that was over a month ago. Optimism turned into frustration, and frustration boiled into cuss words.

Cabrera's insurance at shortstop has been about as relieving as hydrogen peroxide on an open wound, except that wound has yet to scab. Watching him play day after day hasn't even been fun. It's become more of a chore than an escape. Personally, I'm surprised it took me this long to take to Twitter to voice my frustration, and in three simple words, I feel like most fans would agree with my blazing #HotTake.

Don't wanna believe me? The numbers are even worse than the eye-test.

In 23 games this season, Cabrera is slashing a horrifying .205/.227/.229, a result of only 17 hits in 83 AB's. Of his 17 hits, 15 are singles, with his only two extra-base hits being a pair of doubles that were collected in the empty-stadium game against the White Sox. He's hitless in his last five games (0-15), and on the year, Cabrera has more strikeouts (18) than hits (17). For a guy with speed, Cabrera's grounded into more doubles plays (3) than he has stolen bases (2).

Yes, the Orioles defense as a whole has been disappointing, but it's not like Cabrera has been helping the cause. He's added three errors of his own (one fielding, two throwing), and there just isn't a sense of security at one of the three most important defensive positions on the field. According to FanGraphs, Cabrera doesn't have the kind of range that O's fans have become accustomed to at shortstop, as their Inside Edge Fielding shows that his glove is limited to only the replacement-level plays.

Oh, J.J., where art thou J.J.?

As has been the rumor for a few days now, Hardy appears set to return to the Orioles as early as today, with Friday being the more likely date. Despite an earlier setback in April, Hardy now appears good to go. In his three rehab games at Double-A Bowie, Hardy was 4-12 with a double and an RBI, and after last night's final rehab appearance, Hardy told MASN's Steve Melewski he feels like he's ready to get back to Baltimore.

"My shoulder is ready," he said. "I got what, 12 at-bats in the last six weeks, so timing is going to be something that I've got to deal with. But I either deal with it up there or here, so if (Buck Showalter) wants me to come up, I'm coming up.

Oh, J.J., we're ready for you bud.

Hardy's absence has been an obvious concern, but the reality is squarely in front of us. You just can't ask someone like Everth Cabrera to replicate the kind of impact that Hardy has. He gobbles up everything in front of him. He's a plus hitter at a position starved for offense. He's a rock.

Even his presence in the dugout and in the locker room will be a welcomed sight. He's been an integral catalyst in the return of winning to Baltimore, and simply having him around is a boost to a team that needs establishment, not replacement.

Yeah, after three straight 22+ home runs seasons, Hardy managed only 9 last season, but he was a more dynamic a hitter compared to years past, hitting the ball the other way more frequently with a fancy for more consistent line drives. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty great right about now. Know what else sounds awesome? Gold Glove defense.

So please Mr. Hardy, come back as soon as you're ready, but I heed you fair warning. My mom is kind of old-fashioned, so she isn't a big fan of booming F's and S's that result from Cabrera strikeouts.