SARASOTA, Fla. - The schedule and expectations for shortstop J.J. Hardy haven’t changed over the past few days. His back hasn’t put up any roadblocks.
Hardy remains confident that he can start playing in exhibition games on March 10, the target date set after he underwent three tests to determine the cause of his spasms and eliminate the most serious possibilities.
“I’d say everything’s kind of as planned, like what we talked about,” Hardy said this morning while sitting at his locker. “We got the tests back and it was all good news. Having the extra time in spring training, I think we’re going to take it slow so we can avoid what happened in 2014 where I kind of dealt with it the whole year.”
Hardy will be brought along in a cautious manner while other infielders amp up their workouts each day and prepare for games.
“The thing is, this Thursday will be four weeks from when this first occurred and I haven’t thrown a baseball since it’s happened, I haven’t swung a bat since it’s happened, I haven’t done any baseball activities since it’s happened,” Hardy said. “So everything that I had done up until that point is probably washed out. I was playing catch and everything was going good, but four weeks of not doing anything is probably washed out. I’ll need to build up some baseball strength before I do all that stuff.
“What’s today, the 21st? Feeling much better than I have every day since I got on this dose pack. I’ve been feeling better every single day and I guess everything looks like that schedule is pretty realistic. It would be nice to be able to get in there around the 10th and not feel like I have to play every single game in order to be ready.
“I think it will be similar to what all these guys have done for the first four days. I don’t know how much of bunt defense and first-and-third and rundowns, all that stuff I need to do, but I do need to get all my repetitions, my ground balls. I need to get my arm strength up to throw and then obviously there’s a building up program for hitting.
“I’m not going to go out there and hit on the field the first day. Probably start with some dry swings and see how that feels and hit some balls off the tee, maybe work up to some flips. Maybe some overhand in the cage and then work my way out to the field and probably stand in on some bullpens and stuff like that. But if everything continues going good with my back, I don’t see why (March 10) is not very realistic.”
Hardy began to worry after the Orioles scheduled a third test on his back, a bone scan that followed his MRI and CT scan. But it was done as a precaution.
“I think they just wanted to eliminate everything and see if there was big changes from the MRI in 2014, which I’m glad to say there wasn’t,” he said. “But apparently just getting older, it takes longer. Maybe that’s it, because the only difference from what I’m feeling now and what I felt every other year this has happened is just that it’s taking longer. I mean, that’s it.
“I feel like once I get back to the point I always do, it shouldn’t be an issue again. But I don’t want to rush it because I rushed it in ‘14 and I dealt with little stuff the whole year.”
Hardy felt his back grab the day before heading to Baltimore for FanFest. He lives in Arizona and had to take a cross-country flight that left him in such discomfort that he couldn’t sit still. He stood a couple of times, which drew curious stares from passengers. Hardy also was careful during FanFest, rising slowly from his chair after signing autographs and participating in a forum, leaning on one foot while talking to the media - hoping no one would notice - and lowering himself with his knees to high-five kids.
“I think that’s one of the main reasons that this has lasted longer than it normally does, because of sitting on a plane for 4 1/2 hours and then coming back,” he said.
“The ride back was worse for me than the ride there for some reason. The day after was going to Baltimore and then the day at FanFest Saturday wasn’t terrible, but then coming back, I was so uncomfortable on the plane. I’m sure the guy sitting next to me was like, ‘What the heck’s wrong with this guy?’ Because I’m just trying to get comfortable. But it’s all the same stuff. It’s all the same stuff that I’ve dealt with before and it’s just taking a little longer this time.”
Hardy also had been chasing around his 16-month-old son at home, constantly bending forward to pick him up or redirect him. He couldn’t just recline in a chair for a few days to let the muscles relax.
Hardy has eliminated that activity in camp. Now he’s eager to resume the ones related to baseball.
Meanwhile, outfielder Michael Bourn hasn’t arrived in camp after agreeing to a minor league deal yesterday with a spring invite. Pitcher Vidal Nuño, assigned uniform No. 52, will be here on Wednesday.