Hardy cleared to return from left thumb sprain

Hardy cleared to return from left thumb sprain

CLEVELAND -- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy returned to the starting lineup on Friday for the first time in almost a week, having tested his sprained left thumb earlier in the day and deemed good to go. He went 2-for-4 with the game-tying RBI single in the eighth inning.

"I came in today with a little bit of a question mark on how the baseball stuff was going to feel," said Hardy, who sustained the injury on Saturday and was a late scratch from Sunday's lineup. "I went out played catch, took some ground balls, took some swings and it felt good enough to play. I want to get out there. I feel like I am going to have to work through some soreness anyway, so whether it is today or tomorrow, I'd rather get started as soon as possible."

Hardy's return bolsters an Orioles lineup already without third baseman Manny Machado, and his presence moves Ryan Flaherty over to third base. While Hardy made it no secret he wanted to play every game he missed, manager Buck Showalter said there's a certain amount of trust that also plays into the decision.

"I know what he's going to say, he's been saying that since the day he hurt it," Showalter said of his discussion with Hardy. "I think we could have got him to go rehab if it was legal yesterday. Mentally and emotionally, he's ready to go. And the game will tell us if he's ready physically."

Hardy is an American League Glove Glove Award-winning shortstop, and the injury is on his non-throwing hand and is more of an issue offensively. But he felt confident that Friday afternoon's session was enough for him to be OK at the plate. Hardy entered the Friday's game batting .283 with six homers and 40 RBIs.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.