BALTIMORE — The Orioles appear to be moving closer to restoring their regular left side of the infield with shortstop J.J. Hardy beginning baseball activities in Sarasota.
After playing catch from 90 feet over the weekend, the 33-year-old took 25 ground balls on Monday and is taking swings and hitting off a tee as he continues to work his way back from a fractured left foot suffered on May 1. According to manager Buck Showalter, Hardy will not rejoin the club to continue his rehab until he is participating in full baseball activity in Sarasota.
The hope is that Hardy could still be ready to be activated from the disabled list later this month, but he would need to complete a minor-league rehab assignment after such a lengthy absence.
“It’s more about the player. J.J. knows what it takes to be up here,” said Showalter when asked how long Hardy’s rehab assignment might take. “We’ll trust him with that. I don’t think you’re going to see him go down there and play one game and four at-bats and say, ‘I’m ready.’ He’s going to do some of that in the extended-spring program probably before he goes out [on an assignment].
“But I wouldn’t say it’d be quick. I’d like for it to be quick. We miss him.”
Two-time Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado has filled in admirably playing his natural shortstop position in Hardy’s absence, but the Orioles have struggled to receive production at third base with defensive-minded players Ryan Flaherty and Paul Janish providing below-replacement-level offense and slugger Pedro Alvarez serving as a defensive liability in his six starts at the hot corner.
Though coming off the worst season of his major league career in 2015, Hardy was hitting .244 with two home runs, eight RBIs, and a .701 on-base plus slugging percentage in 86 plate appearances this season.
Last rehab start for Gallardo?
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo will make what the Orioles hope is his final rehab start on Tuesday afternoon at Triple-A Norfolk, putting him in line to potentially return to start the series finale in Toronto on Sunday.
Have the woes of the current starting rotation altered how the Orioles evaluate Gallardo’s readiness to return from right shoulder tendinitis?
“You mean all he’s got to do is show up and be breathing and he’s in it?” said Showalter, cracking a smile. “I’m just being frank. No, it shouldn’t and I’d like to think it doesn’t. Are you going to base it on performance or how he feels? You hope you get both.
“Yovani wants to get back. He’s champing at the bit. If I had a choice between [him] being productive and being healthy tomorrow, I’ll take the healthy part.”
Waiting game for Joseph
A week after Caleb Joseph suffered a testicular injury that required surgery from a foul ball to the groin area, Showalter confirmed the backup catcher would not be ready to return after the minimum 15 days for a DL stint.
Joseph will not to resume catching until the four-week mark from when the injury took place on May 30. Showalter said the 29-year-old should be able to take part in all other baseball activities before then, but there understandably will be an adjustment period for Joseph to once again take work behind the plate after sustaining such a gruesome injury.
Fortunately for the Orioles, recently-promoted backup Francisco Pena has collected multi-hit games in each of his first two starts since Joseph was placed on the DL.