Hardy: I've made "big strides the past couple days"

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy will not be in the starting lineup tonight for the fifth game in a row and for the sixth time in seven games. He's been out due to lower back spasms and stiffness.

After being hopeful of playing the last few games, Hardy hopes this time he really is one day away from rejoining the lineup.

hardy hit white sidebar.jpg"I've made a bunch of big strides the past couple days," he said this afternoon in the Orioles clubhouse. "I came in today early and took some ground balls and took some swings. It all felt good. I'll go through a normal day of practice and anticipate being in there tomorrow."

Hardy was expected to do some on-field work at Camden Yards yesterday, but that did not happen.

"I didn't come in," he said. "They recommended just resting and taking that full day. Just not testing anything and today I was able to take some ground balls and swings and it felt good. Guess tomorrow will be the day."

Did he have any issues after his pregame work today?

"No, it's good," he said.

Hardy has not started or played since Saturday at Detroit when he went 2-for-3. He's 5-for-15 on the season. Both Hardy and manager Buck Showalter said he could be used tonight.

Hardy played in 158 games in 2012 and 159 last year. He won't reach that number this season, but he said he and the team have been keeping the big picture in mind with his back issue. It's a long season and that is a factor in the decisions they've been making.

"It does (factor in), for sure. If I don't play today, I think that will be six games and I can still play 156," Hardy said. "That is kind of my goal. Trying to rush it and miss another six games because I tried to come back too early is definitely something I don't want to do.

"It's tough. It was nice seeing the guys win the last two days, that makes it a little easier. But I want to be out there playing, grinding with all the guys."

Does he have a concern that this could be a recurring issue throughout the season?

"I sure hope not. It's been basically five years of having a really good back and not having to worry about it and this came out of nowhere," he said. "So I'm hoping to get past this and maybe another five years before I have to deal with it again."

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