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Orioles notes: J.J. Hardy says his back feels good and he should be playing soon

SARASOTA, FLA. — Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has been rehabbing a sore lower back for the past five weeks, said on Monday that he's pain-free and getting close to playing in his first exhibition game.

Hardy said his activities are almost entirely unrestricted and it's more a matter of getting into game shape than getting past the injury.

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"Pretty much [doing] everything but fielding ground balls,'' he said. "I think I'm going to swing today. Pretty much just building up baseball activities now. My back feels fine. It's basically I haven't done anything for five weeks, so everything I did this offseason has been kind of washed out, so I'm just getting back into shape."

He was originally projected by manager Buck Showalter to make his first Grapefruit League appearance by March 10. Hardy said that's possible but expects his exhibition debut to be a few days later than that.

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"I wouldn't say it's out of the question," he said. "It would be like coming into camp. Say games started March 1 and everyone shows up Feb. 28 and has one or two days to get ready for baseball. I think they're going to obviously take it a little slow. I haven't hit on the field, stuff like that, but my back is all better and now it's just a matter of progressing baseball-wise and not being stupid and rushing it too much."

Position players ideally get about 40 or 50 at-bats in spring. Hardy said he thinks there will be ample time to do that and be ready for Opening Day.

"If I play 15 games and get three at-bats, I mean, that's 45 at-bats," he said. "I feel like that would be fine. Maybe I'd be playing a few more games in a row than I would have if I started March 1, but I don't think that would be an issue. I could always go over to minor league camp and get nine at-bats in one game. I don't think the at-bats are going to be an issue."

Wynns added big league camp: Catching prospect Austin Wynns was been brought up to major league camp, a move that is connected to the departure of Welington Castillo to join the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic.

Wynns might have gotten up earlier if he had not suffered an ankle injury playing in the Dominican Winter League in late January.

"He's got a locker in the main [clubhouse] and if he hadn't been hurt in winter ball he would have been here from the get-go," Showalter said. "I've heard a lot of really good things about Austin Wynns. I was looking forward to getting him healthy and getting him over here."

He didn't have to wait long to get into the action. Wynns played the ninth inning of Monday's victory over the Tigers, though he was inadvertently left out of the official box score.

"Austin got his feet wet," Showalter said. "Can you imagine working as hard as he has maybe for his whole life to get to big league camp and then to get hurt toward the end of winter ball and then to have to sit around? … It was nice to get him in there. [Bench coach John Russell] had a good idea to get him in there for the ninth inning."

Dickerson hurt … slightly: Outfield candidate Chris Dickerson has been hobbled a bit by a foul tip off his right foot, which caused some swelling but is not expected to keep him out of the exhibition lineup more than a day or so. Showalter indicated that if it were the regular season, Dickerson probably would be available to play.

Around the horn: Former O's prospect Christian Walker reportedly has been waived by the Braves and claimed by the Reds, though move is not yet official. Walker was 2-for-16 with a home run and two RBI in 16 spring at-bats with the Braves.

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