PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter said shortstop J.J. Hardy will start taking ground balls next week to further test his back. Hardy has been running and performing truck rotations.
Showalter won’t put a firm date on Hardy’s debut in an exhibition game, but he said the shortstop only needs to start playing over the final two weeks to be ready for opening day.
Closer Zach Britton will play catch one more time before moving back on a mound.
Chris Tillman remains scheduled to throw off a normal mound on Sunday.
The Dominican Republic team has requested that the Orioles provide about six innings worth of pitching to the World Baseball Classic entry for Tuesday’s exhibition game in Sarasota.
Gabriel Ynoa likely will pitch for the Dominican, since he was scheduled to work three innings that day. Showalter also will lend the club Jefri Hernandez and Luis Gonzalez, who spent the past two seasons at Single-A Frederick.
Kevin Gausman starts Tuesday against the Dominican Republic.
Besides starter Ubaldo Jimenéz and reliever Brad Brach, the Orioles also brought Vidal Nuño, Richard Bleier, Zach Stewart, Jimmy Yacabonis, Hernandez, Brian Moran and Stefan Crichton to Port Charlotte.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland’s minor league deal with the Diamondbacks includes an opt-out clause. It isn’t inconceivable that he eventually returns to the Orioles