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Hardy frustrated by lengthy DL stint, hopes to return soon

Hardy frustrated by lengthy DL stint, hopes to return soon
Shortstop J.J. Hardy waits his turn in the batting cage before a spring training game in Sarasota, Fla., Saturday, March 7, 2015. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Perhaps the most frustrating thing for shortstop J.J. Hardy as he deals with a protracted disabled list stint is all of the potential deadlines he has missed.

Hardy, who strained a muscle in his left shoulder while diving for a ball in a Grapefruit League game March 27, initially was hoping to avoid being placed on the DL. Then he was shooting to be ready when first eligible on April 11, and when that deadline passed, he targeted the following weekend and the one after that.

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And he still hasn't played in any minor league rehabilitation games as April is about to turn into May.

"It's kind of the same thing where we're setting these dates like two weekends ago where I was going to be ready to go, and I just wasn't, and then I set it again for the weekend after that, and I wasn't," Hardy said. "I'm kind of tired of setting those dates and not making it."

Hardy, 32, had a cortisone shot Saturday and will not be able to resume baseball activities until at least Wednesday. He had been doing everything defensively without any problems but still has discomfort while swinging a bat.

"I don't know how I'd describe it," Hardy said of the nagging pain. "After I do certain activities, it will get pretty achy and start to tighten up more, but it's been getting better. It's been better with every little progression."

He considered playing in a game for Triple-A Norfolk last weekend, but he only would have had 20 days to rejoin the Orioles from that point. The club didn't want him to start that clock until they knew he was completely pain-free.

Once cleared by doctors, Hardy said he should be able to pick up where he left off as far as his rehab work – taking batting practice and participating in fielding drills. Orioles manager Buck Showalter estimated that Hardy would probably need three to four days of minor league games before being activated. That timeline makes sense to Hardy, but he's done trying to put a timeline on his recovery.

"Hopefully, sometime this week, I can go out and hit on the field and not feel anything for a couple of days and get back soon," he said.

Showalter said Hardy's absence has been felt most in the field, where the three-time Gold Glover is incredibly sure-handed.

"The presence, the consistency. Knowing what you have," Showalter said about Hardy. "J.J. kicks a ball or does something, you know it's one of those things that just happens three or four times a year. That's what you miss, the sureness."

Garcia will still get opportunities

Showalter said so long as Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia is on the roster, he's going to find spots for him to pitch. Garcia entered Sunday's game in the seventh with the Orioles up 12-3. The right-hander surrendered a homer to the first batter he faced, Hanley Ramirez, and then served up a three-run shot to Ramirez in the ninth.

"Dan [Duquette] and I are in agreement - we're not going to put the bullpen in harm's way physically and we're not going to do something that's not right for the kid and the organization," Showalter said. "We're trying to win. So far, that hasn't gotten in the way, but if it does, we'll make an adjustment."

Garcia, a 22-year-old who hasn't pitched above low Class A previously, would have to clear waivers before the Orioles could try to work out a deal with the Boston Red Sox to keep him. The Orioles don't expect Garcia to make it through waivers and don't expect the division rival Red Sox to comply with a deal.

So it's either hang on to him all season or let him go. They love the upside, but he has allowed eight earned runs and seven walks in 10 1/3 innings pitched.

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The other alternative is putting him on the disabled list, and Showalter made a point of saying Garcia's velocity has been down since spring training.

"Just want to make sure he's healthy and we'll see how he feels today," Showalter said Monday. "Just looking at someone's velocity to judge him, he's down a little bit from where he was in spring training and last year some, but he's still effective for the most part."

Injury updates

Matt Wieters (elbow surgery) caught four innings in an extended spring game Monday in Sarasota, Fla. He also had two at-bats in the game. Showalter said no one attempted a steal against him – throwing out would-be basestealers is the biggest test of his repaired right elbow. It's possible Wieters catches again Tuesday, but that has not been determined yet. Pitching prospect Hunter Harvey (leg) threw 35 pitches during a bullpen session Monday in Sarasota. He is scheduled to pitch two innings Friday in an extended spring game.

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