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07/16/11 8:07 PM ET

Orioles, Hardy agree on extension

BALTIMORE -- J.J. Hardy got the news late Friday night, but by Saturday afternoon, the 28-year-old shortstop -- who has played on a yearly contract his entire career -- admitted the news of his three-year contract extension still hadn't quite sunk in.

Fortunately, there will be plenty of time for that. Hardy's deal -- which will net him around $22 million and become official following Sunday's physical -- ensures he will remain in Baltimore through the 2014 season, with a partial no-trade clause and an agreement that keeps one of baseball's most coveted shortstops off the market as the upcoming trade deadline approaches.

"There's a lot of things I don't have to worry about now," said Hardy, who would have been a free agent at season's end. "[The extension is] definitely a relief, a big weight off my shoulders. I can just worry about playing baseball."

Acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota, Hardy made it no secret that he wanted to stay with Baltimore, provided it was on the right terms. A subject of trade rumors and plagued with talk of top prospects behind him while in Milwaukee, Hardy's three-year deal makes sense for both sides, giving the injury-prone infielder stability and filling a hole for an Orioles organization with no immediate solution given that top prospect Manny Machado is believed to be about two years away.

"Overall I've had a lot of fun here, and there's been years I didn't have a lot of fun playing," said Hardy, who sat down with his agent to go over possible landing spots before deciding to stick with Baltimore.

"Right now it's not going that well [for the Orioles], but there is some potential and I feel like this team is a lot better than what we've been doing the last couple weeks. I like challenges as well as being competitive. I feel like it's definitely a big challenge to turn this whole organization around, and if I can help and be a part of that, great."

Hardy -- who missed a month with an oblique strain -- entered Saturday hitting .275 with 13 homers and 33 RBIs and has made just two errors in 63 games. Used as the primary leadoff hitter in lieu of the injured Brian Roberts, Hardy has been one of the few bright spots in an erratic Orioles offense, and Saturday's news was a welcome reprieve for a team mired in a season-high nine-game losing streak.

"It means a lot," right fielder Nick Markakis said of the organization's willingness to lock up Hardy.

"You know what you're going to get out of him every day. He plays the game hard and he plays the game right. You can put him anywhere in the lineup pretty much. He's an all-around ball player and he's a guy you want on your team."

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