During the dog days of late August, no baseball player considers himself 100 percent physically, but shortstop J.J. Hardy said he's trying to grind through multiple physical issues to remain on the field while attempting to break out of a funk at the plate.
Hardy, who entered Saturday's game 3-for-39 over his previous 11 games, felt discomfort in his groin during Friday's game and had to go through a variety of running drills before being placed in the starting lineup for Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.
"I think it's a bit of an understatement I think to say it's been a grind," Hardy said before testing his groin prior to batting practice Saturday. "I'm just trying to get through it, get my body right, get my swing right, do anything I can."
Hardy hit .221 with a .251 on-base percentage and a .315 slugging percentage in his first 91 games this season, and batted just .188 over his 42 games before Saturday, a stretch that dates to July 2. That slump came after Hardy hit .307 in June.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Hardy tweaked his groin earlier in the week, but felt better before aggravating it in Friday's game.
"I think the swinging bunt, he felt it a little bit and then one of the 20 choppers, infield singles, I think the one with [Eduardo] Nunez he felt in the [eighth inning]," Showalter said. "It wasn't an issue until that one last night. Right now it's not an issue. We'll see what the game brings."
Hardy missed the season's first month with a strained left shoulder he suffered during spring training, then also missed time with back tightness and discomfort in his left side. Hardy has played in 69 of the Orioles' past 70 games, receiving a day off Aug. 12 in Seattle after the three-time Gold Glove winner uncharacteristically committed errors in back-to-back games. So he isn't using health as a crutch.
"Everyone's got something," Hardy said. "I'm just trying to do what I can to stay out there. I've got a few things, but I'd rather not talk about it until I have to."
Showalter said Hardy's struggles at the plate might be related to physical issues, but that the Gold Glove shortstop knows how to pace himself.
"He's not one who uses that as an excuse," Showalter said. "He paces at the right spots. He knows when he needs to go and he knows the long haul and knows that's the way he has to do it. But I think sometimes the presentation isn't as good as the actuality. And he's been real honest with us about anything he might be feeling. He's not a guy who is in the training room a lot, but he's ready at 7 o' clock. I know it's been a challenge for him offensively at times."
Showalter met with executive vice president Dan Duquette and player development director Brian Graham before Saturday's game to discuss September call-ups.
"You're trying to massage a lot of different things there," Showalter said. "The priority is obviously the major league club and the needs and who might come up here to help us win a baseball game. That's where you start, like we started today."
Asked what would be an ideal roster number for September, Showalter said he'd like to target the low 30s. There are currently two open spots on the 40-man roster, allowing for space to add non-roster players in September.
Showalter hopes that right-handed reliever Chaz Roe, on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, is ready to return to the club by Sept. 1 or 2. Roe is scheduled to pitch a simulated game next weekend when the team is in Texas, then go on a brief minor league rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Bowie.
Right-hander Mike Wright (left calf) just threw a three-inning simulated game in Sarasota, Fla., and should be able to return shortly after Sept. 1. Right-hander Tyler Wilson (left oblique) shouldn't be far behind, Showalter said.
"We're going to need a little coverage in the bullpen," Showalter said. "Chaz will be one of those guys hopefully and probably initially we'll take another arm in the 'pen, but I think we've got a pretty good idea of where we're going and how we're going to make room for them. We have plenty of room on the roster."
With both Triple-A Norfolk and Bowie heading to the postseason, Showalter said there's a fine balance of filling the needs of the major league club and not raiding the top two affiliates in the postseason. After those teams complete their seasons, a group of players will continue working out in Sarasota in case they're needed in September, as was the case last season. Instructional League opens on Sept. 16 in Sarasota.
"I know there are certain things contractually that we are aware of now," Showalter said. "Some guy might be wanting to go back to finish school on the 29th of August unless he's called up that's already in the contract. There are people who have outs on [Aug.] 31 that can go up to other clubs to be called up by them. So we have a lot of dynamics that we've got all on the table today, so we kind of know what we're dealing with."
Steve Pearce, who is on the DL with a strained left oblique, played his first minor league rehab game at Bowie on Saturday. Pearce started at first base and batted third for the Baysox. He played in two Gulf Coast League games earlier this week.
Showalter indicated that Pearce might need just one game with Bowie before being ready to come off the DL. There was uncertainty about whether Pearce would be ready to join the Orioles when they open their road trip in Kansas City on Monday.
"I'd take it a step further and see if Steve needs another day after tonight," Showalter said Saturday. "If he plays here tomorrow, he'd be going right?"
Around the horn
Outfielder Gerardo Parra went into Saturday's game with an eight-game hitting streak, during which he was hitting .400/.417/.771 with four homers and nine RBIs. Parra's .354 average from June 11 through Friday led all major league hitters with at least 201 plate appearances. … Right-hander Chris Tillman went into Saturday's start riding a seven-decision winning streak, posting a 3.47 ERA with eight quality starts over 12 starts. ... Norfolk outfielder Junior Lake was out of Saturday's starting lineup with conjunctivitis (pink eye). … The first 20,000 fans 15 and over at Sunday's game will receive an Orioles pet leash.