Sun reporter Jon Meoli gives analysis on left-handed pitching depth and updates on the progress of Zach Britton and Chris Tillman. (Jon Meoli/Baltimore Sun video)
SARASOTA, FLA. — Both J.J. Hardy (back) and Zach Britton (oblique) are clearly impatient to get out and compete after spending a month of spring training in total rehabilitation mode.
Britton has reached the point where he will either throw one more bullpen session or make his next appearance on the mound in an exhibition game. Hardy is able to do every baseball activity and said he's very close to getting into the Orioles' Grapefruit League lineup.
They each speculated that Tuesday's home game against the Tampa Bay Rays might be the day.
"I threw a bullpen yesterday and I think live BP tomorrow and then the schedule has a game Tuesday," Britton said. "... I feel good after yesterday and I'm itching to get in a game.
"I definitely feel like I've been ready for the last few days to get in the game, so I'll throw live BP and maybe J.J. will get in there and that'll be fun and then Tuesday."
Hardy said basically the same thing. He's been hitting and taking ground balls and said his back has felt "completely normal" for a while now.
The Orioles can only hope that Chris Tillman says the same thing about his right shoulder. He's scheduled to throw a full-mound bullpen session Saturday and manager Buck Showalter said Friday that it's an important day to gauge Tillman's progress.
Bleier to stay: Left-hander Richard Bleier, who told Showalter earlier in the week that he had decided not to join the Israel team for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, said Saturday that he made the decision in consultation with his wife, agent and the team.
"I just decided that I wasn't going to go," he said, "just because I think it would be better for me to pitch here, ultimately. ... On the Orioles' side, they said, 'Do whatever you want. If you want to go, go.' I think it just came down to it was really short notice. It was like a Tuesday when they asked me and I would have to have left by Thursday and just decided that I didn't want to rush into things."
"I was definitely torn. I know I need to be here. But just seeing the games on TV, it would have been a lot of fun to be there and be a part of it."