Hardy's back improved

NEW YORK - The sun is out and the Orioles are taking batting practice and doing infield drills. The temperature actually is rising. Imagine the possibilities.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters this morning that shortstop J.J. Hardy is feeling "a lot better" despite being out of the lineup for the fourth time in five games with lingering tightness in his lower back.

schoop-fielding-grounders-tall.jpgShowalter indicated that Hardy should be available today, though he would make the same claim if it weren't true to give the impression that the Orioles have a four-man bench. No sense tipping off the Yankees.

"He's much more available," Showalter said. "I'm optimistic that he will be an option today. See how the rest of the day goes. But I would have said that yesterday.

"He's improved. Very close to being ready to start. Hopefully, he'll give us more options than we had yesterday. We'll see by game time. You can tell by his face, so that's good."

Down in Sarasota, Manny Machado continues to run on a pool treadmill. He still needs to run sprints outdoors before being cleared to play in games.

"He feels good again today," Showalter said. "So does Johan (Santana) from his two-inning outing. He's progressing well. Not sure exactly what's next for him yet."

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