- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - There’s a word to describe the way J.J. Hardy plays shortstop.

It isn’t “flashy” or “colorful.”

“His nickname here is Textbook,” said Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who appreciates Hardy’s defense far more than the bat that last year produced 25 home runs and earned the 31-year-old a Silver Slugger Award.

Hardy doesn’t often make the plays that show up on the nightly highlight show. That’s not his style. But if the Orioles are lined up at double-play depth and Hardy gets his hands on a grounder, Baltimore will get those two outs quicker than you can say 6-4-3.

He’s all about substance.

“I’ve never been flashy,” Hardy said. “I feel like if I make an error trying to be flashy, I’m about as embarrassed as I can possibly be.”

It doesn’t happen often. Hardy earned a second straight Gold Glove Award last season after ranking first among shortstops in double plays, second in assists and third in putouts. Over the past two years he’s made only 18 errors in 1,424 chances.

The last Orioles shortstop to win two consecutive Gold Glove Awards was Cal Ripken Jr. (1991-92). Ripken, a no-nonsense fielder, appreciates the way Hardy plays the position.

“He does it without a lot of fanfare,” Ripken said. “He does it consistently. He makes all of the plays and is in the right spot all the time. And it doesn’t going to go unnoticed to me.”

Showalter can’t help but notice, too.

“If you’re not talking about it, you’re not watching. But I think a lot of people don’t talk about it because he’s not flashy,” the manager said. “He doesn’t need to draw attention to himself by making something look harder than it is.”

It’s a lesson that is not wasted on Manny Machado, the Orioles‘ 21-year-old third baseman. Machado was drafted as a shortstop, but he’s learned plenty about the position by working alongside Hardy over the past two seasons.

“I don’t think there’s anybody better out there,” Machado said. “Some of my success is because of my talent, but mentally he helped me out a lot, seeing how he goes about his business and seeing how he gets prepared for games. This game is all about routine, and to learn from a guy like that, it’s something I’ll always remember. It will always be a part of my game.”

Hardy makes an error about as infrequently as a sports writer turns down a free meal. When it does happen, it’s a shock.

“When he kicks a ball,” Showalter said, “everybody just goes, ‘What happened?’”

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