HOUSTON — J.J. Hardy missed his second straight game Tuesday with what appears to be a mild left oblique injury, but the Orioles' All-Star shortstop has reason to be optimistic that the injury won't sideline him for long.
During batting practice Tuesday, Hardy left Minute Maid Park to undergo a precautionary MRI and after the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it came back clean. Hardy is considered day-to-day, but Showalter said that doesn't mean the shortstop will avoid a stint on the disabled list.
"Came back as normal [as possible], so that's good," Showalter said. "There's not the stuff you normal see there with an oblique, but there's still something. He feels a lot better today. So we will see what tomorrow brings. Got to be careful with it. But that was as good of news you could hear on that."
Hardy said he was happy with MRI results and is hopeful that he won't have to go on the DL.
"Very good sign. ... I think that's what we were thinking even yesterday, that we caught this before it got bad and this MRI just kind of proves that," Hardy said. "... I think it was a good move to stop and take a day because it was very similar to what I felt in 2011 before I really hurt it."
Hardy said he has been cautious for that reason - because the discomfort in his left side is similar to what he felt in the initial stages of a left oblique injury that sent him to the DL for a month early in the 2011 season.
Back in 2011, Hardy said simply sneezing, coughing or laughing would cause pain. He's not feeling that now. But because he feels the injury is a result of taking extra swings as he attempts to fight out of a slump, Hardy didn't plan on taking any swings Tuesday.
Hardy said he might be able to swing again Wednesday.
"I think so. We'll see how I feel, but I'd like to," he said. "I think that was the plan even yesterday - take a day from doing anything and let it recover and see what it feels like. So I think tomorrow, we'll see how it feels and we'll go from there."
Hardy opened the season on the DL with a left-shoulder sprain that forced him to miss the season's first month. He also missed some time with lower-back stiffness but avoided a DL stint for that injury.
Wieters, Norris rehab starts rained out
Tuesday's scheduled game at Triple-A Norfolk was rained out, delaying what was supposed to be the final rehabilitation outings for catcher Matt Wieters (right elbow) and right-hander Bud Norris (bronchitis) before being activated from the DL.
Norris will start and Wieters will catch Game 1 of a doubleheader for Norfolk at 5 p.m. today. Showalter said Wieters could "potentially" be activated from the 60-day DL before Thursday's afternoon game in Houston and make his season debut at designated hitter. Wieters was scheduled to make his first start at catcher Friday in Cleveland.
"We'll see," Showalter said. "We'll see how everything goes. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves."
Showalter said Norris will likely be shortened up today so that he could still be an option to pitch on short rest Sunday in Cleveland. He is scheduled to make 65 to 70 pitches.
Showalter still hasn't announced Sunday's starter, but has said Norris will return to the starting rotation when he returns from the DL. Rookie right-hander Mike Wright, who started Tuesday, would also be in line to start Sunday.
In two minor league rehab starts, Norris has allowed 13 runs on 18 hits over 72/3 innings.
Matusz's suspension appeal due today
Orioles left-handed reliever Brian Matusz's appeal of his eight-game suspension for having a "foreign substance" on his right forearm will be heard today at Minute Maid Park.
Both Showalter and Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette will attend the hearing.
Matusz was ejected in the 12th inning of the Orioles' May 23 game in Miami. Crew chief Paul Emmel touched Matusz's arm and deemed it sticky before throwing him out of the game. The Orioles contend that the combination of rosin and sunscreen created the stickiness.
Matusz and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith received eight-game suspensions for use of a "foreign substance." Smith's appeal was heard Monday and the rulings in both cases could be announced at the same time Friday.
That timing isn't ideal for the Orioles, who could lose their only left-handed reliever right when they face a Cleveland Indians lineup that typically starts five left-handed hitters and two switch-hitters. Showalter has said he has faith in the way right-handed relievers Brad Brach and Oliver Drake perform against lefties.
Though no one has said it publicly, the Orioles believe they have a strong case with the appeal, especially because no replay shows a discernible "foreign substance" on Matusz's arm. In Smith's case, a shiny substance was noticeable on his arm.
Around the horn
Adam Jones returned to center field Tuesday, his first start there since Friday. Jones had a mild left-ankle sprain that forced him out of two games. He was the starting DH on Monday against the Astros. … After a game in which infielder Everth Cabrera dropped a double-play ball on the turn and failed to execute a bunt, he was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Ryan Flaherty started at shortstop and Steve Pearce started at second base. … Right-hander Dane De La Rosa, a minor league signing this offseason who has yet to play this season while rehabbing from right-meniscus surgery in September, will report to Norfolk shortly. ... The Orioles' Sept. 21 game at Nationals Park will be the Washington Nationals' annual Law Enforcement Night, honoring all law enforcement and corrections officers in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.