BOWIE - Orioles shortstop J.J Hardy moves one step closer to rejoining the team soon, potentially as early as Friday, as he begins a minor league rehab assignment tonight with the Double-A Bowie Baysox.
He is batting second and playing at shortstop. He said he expects to get at least three at-bats tonight against the Portland Sea Dogs, in his first game since May 1 with the Orioles. Hardy has been out with a fractured bone in his left foot. He has been rehabbing the injury at the Orioles’ spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla.
So he’ll play the next three days at Prince George’s Stadium for the Baysox.
“Yeah and then kind of see where we’re at,” he said this afternoon in the Baysox dugout. “Hopefully, in a perfect world, these three games go well and I’m not thinking about my foot at all and I’m 100 percent. If that is the case, I’ll let everyone know I feel 100 percent. Then they can say, ‘All right, we want you back,’ or, “Go do a little bit more.’ We’ll just figure that out after these three days.”
So the soonest he would return to the Orioles would be on Friday against Toronto.
“I mean, I don’t know if that is getting ahead of ourselves or not,” he said. “It has been six weeks of not playing. We’ll just see how these three games go before we start getting ahead of ourselves.
“It’s been about a week now that I’ve been doing baseball activities. Started out with just ground balls in place and not really moving around. Just been the last couple of days with jogging and trying to stride it out a bit more running. Hitting, the last three days on the field and before that it was three or four days in the cage and tee work.
“Baseball activities is ramping up, so now next is playing in games and just trying to react and do things without thinking about my foot.”
The fractured bone is completely healed at this point.
“The bone, nothing. I don’t feel at all where the bone was broken,” Hardy said. “The joint in the ankle, just from being in a boot for four and a half weeks, that is kind of gaining strength and stabilizing a little bit more. The joint I feel a little bit, but the bone, not at all.”
“Yesterday was the hardest I’ve ran. I still felt like maybe, I don’t know if it was, a tiny little limp. Probably a lot mental at this point. That is why I want to get back into game speed and start doing stuff naturally and not thinking about it anymore.”
In 22 games for the Orioles this year, Hardy has hit .244/.291/.410 with two homers and eight RBIs. He played three games with Bowie last year from May 4-6, going 4-for-12. Then he was on the DL with a left shoulder strain. Hardy also played one other time in the O’s minors, playing three games at Triple-A Norfolk in May 2011.
I asked Hardy what he is looking to see over the next few days to know he is ready to rejoin the Orioles.
“No. 1 is how the foot and ankle feel,” he said. “If I’m running around and not thinking about it and not feeling it, that is going to be one of the biggest things for me. Then being able to see the ball, tracking it hitting and going from there. But No. 1, I want to make sure my foot and ankle feel normal.”
Meanwhile, Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph is also in Bowie today. He will work out the next three days with the Baysox, but not play in any games. Then he’ll return to Baltimore when the team comes home on Friday to meet with the O’s medical staff.
Joseph had testicular surgery May 30 after taking a foul tip to the groin and is not expected to be cleared to catch again until at least June 30. Today, he was at first base during practice taking throws from Hardy at shortstop.
Hardy singles: In his first at-bat in a game since May 1, Hardy poked a ground single into right field in the last of the first. Hardy hit a 1-2 pitch from Portland’s Teddy Stankiewicz.
In the top of the first, Hardy made the play and threw to first for the out on a routine grounder off the bat of Portland third baseman Ryan Court. Bowie and Portland played a scoreless first inning.
In the third: Hardy grounded out to third base to end the Baysox third. Court, the third baseman, made a diving play to his left to rob Hardy of a hit that would have scored a runner from second base.
In the sixth: Hardy came up with his second single, a soft fly ball that left fielder Anuery Tavarez could not make a sliding catch on. So Hardy is 2-for-3 for the Baysox tonight. Bowie fell behind 2-0 as Portland’s Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run homer in the top of the sixth off John Means to break the 0-0 tie.
Hardy would score in that sixth inning on Henry Urrutia’s three-run homer to center as Bowie took a 3-2 lead. It was Urrutia’s first Baysox homer in his 94th at-bat.
Hardy’s night done: Hardy is out after six innings. Adrian Marin has replaced him at shortstop.