J.J. Hardy getting close to making spring debut

SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy took ground balls this morning and hit on the field for the first time this spring as he nears his first exhibition start.

“Everything is fantastic,” Hardy said, having a little fun with the media’s thirst for back updates.

Hardy said he could play “soon.”

“I don’t know exactly the day,” he added. “We’ve got a home game Monday and Tuesday. I can’t give you a date but probably somewhere in there.”

jj-hardy-batting-orange-close.jpgHardy has been performing baseball activities on the back fields, the intensity growing with each session. Though he hadn’t taken ground balls before today, the drills were intense and confirmed that his back spasms were gone.

Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells had Hardy shifting from side to side with cones placed on the field. His lateral movement already was tested. So was his patience.

“I’ve been doing stuff that’s harder than taking ground balls,” he said, “but today was the actual first day of taking ground balls off a bat.”

Hardy hadn’t taken live batting practice before today.

“I stood in on the bullpen the other day, so seeing a little velocity,” he said. “Now, it’s just kind of getting in shape enough to go out and play in a game.”

Hardy’s back seized up the day before he flew to Baltimore for FanFest, making for an extremely uncomfortable flight back home to Arizona.

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