It took him 65 games, but Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is finally on the board. Hardy belted his first home run of the season, taking a 95 MPH Jose Ramirez fastball out to left field at Yankee Stadium.
Between 2007-13, the only shortstops who out-homered Hardy (144) were Troy Tulowitzki (154) and Hanley Ramirez (161). That’s why it was such a surprise to see Hardy on such a lengthy homerless drought. His last home run, prior to Saturday afternoon, occurred on September 5, 2013 against the White Sox.
Hardy, 31, will be free agent after the season following the conclusion of a three-year, $22.25 million contract with the Orioles. He is slashing .291/.319/.368 with the one homer and 16 RBI on the season.
The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.
The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.
Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.