J.J. Hardy’s left shoulder is “good, strong” as he tries to rediscover power stroke

Brian Matusz, Dylan Bundy and J.J. Hardy offered up positive reports on their health during Saturday’s FanFest at the Convention Center. I’ve passed along quotes from the two pitchers. Now, it’s Hardy’s turn.

Hardy, 33, was hindered by an injury to his left shoulder that he sustained in an exhibition game. It took away his power, as Hardy was forced to “protect” the shoulder by not letting go with his top hand when fooled by a pitch. Limited extension led to limited production.

Hardy averaged a home run every 23.3 at-bats from 2011-2013, but he’s averaged one every 55.3 at-bats over the past two seasons while dealing with an assortment of injuries and aches - including his shoulder, back, wrist and groin.

Asked about the shoulder at FanFest, Hardy said, “Good, strong. I got started working out earlier this year than I ever have. I think I’ve got about seven weeks under my belt now. It feels strong. Everything’s feeling good.

hardy-looking-up-after-swing-white-sidebar.jpg“I’m actually holding more weight than I’ve ever done. It’s a little bit different than anything I’ve done in the last 15 years, but I figured I’d try something different as I’m getting older. I think it’s working.”

Hardy dropped down in the order as his average and OPS plummeted. He produced a .219/.253/.311 slash line, career lows across the board, with only eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 114 games.

“It was very frustrating,” said Hardy, who has two years and $26.5 million remaining on his contract, along with a $14 million vesting option and $2 million buyout in 2018. “I think the shoulder was good for a little while when the cortisone was working early, and then it just became a little ...

“It was always there. It wasn’t terrible, so I could play through it, but it wasn’t good, either.”

During the final days of the 2015 season, Hardy insisted that he wouldn’t undergo a second labrum surgery. Once was enough to convince him that rest and rehab would be the preferred method.

“Going through surgery once, I know that it wasn’t like a six-month thing when I did it the first time,” he said. “It took another six months of playing baseball and getting used to it. If I had done that, who knows what it would have been like this year? Having been through it once, I kind of know what to expect. Now that I’m older and I realize I need to keep maintenance and doing all that stuff with it, then I’ll stick to it and hopefully that will be good enough.”

Choosing not to undergo another procedure “was really tough,” Hardy said, “but I think it was the right decision and I’m going to keep doing what I need to do.”

Surgery may have cost Hardy a good chunk of spring training and perhaps forced him on the disabled list again.

“Yeah, probably, and then even more when I was playing, it would have been a lot like this year,” Hardy said. “It still would have been there. It takes a while for me to trust it and having two surgeries on the same shoulder, who knows what it’s going to be like?

“I’m definitely going at it, rehabbing it and strengthening it as much as I can and hoping I never have to deal with it again.”

More days off may prove beneficial to Hardy, though he’s the type of player who wants to stay in the lineup. Days off haven’t been embraced in the past, but he understands now that he needs to make some concessions.

“Probably,” he said. “I like playing as much as I can. If I’m healthy, then I want to be out there. It was tough because it was something that was bugging me, but I was able to go out there and play. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t.

“It’ll be up to Buck (Showalter). If he puts me in there, I’ll do what I can.”

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