One Orioles player who has yet to appear in any spring training pictures is J.J. Hardy. In standard fashion, the reporters in Sarasota at first offered benign explanations for this: Hardy was sick. No big deal. Except it turns out today that Hardy has a sore lower back, had an MRI yesterday, and is getting a CT scan today, according to The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck.
The results of those tests will give a better idea of how serious a problem Hardy is suffering, but in the meantime, it seems like all of the “Manny Machado is practicing at shortstop for the World Baseball Classic” stories were also secretly Machado practicing there in case Hardy is going to miss time either during spring training or worse, the regular season.
It’s not exactly ideal to have a player show up at spring training and immediately it turns out he’s hurt. O’s fans went through this exact same reaction earlier in the week when Chris Tillman reported and it turned out he wouldn’t be healthy for an Opening Day start.
How bad is it for Hardy? How much time will he miss? These are unknowns at the moment. But it’s serious enough that he hasn’t participated in anything yet. Where did the sore back come from is another good question, but hey, as the older crowd knows, getting old sucks, and that’s even true for professional athletes.
Hardy did not indicate any problems at FanFest a few weeks ago, but then, neither did Tillman.
UPDATE: Hardy told Orioles reporters that he has been suffering back spasms since the day before FanFest and has not done any baseball activities since. The spasms themselves are not unusual, though the severity is.
In addition to the MRI and CT scan, he is getting another bone scan tomorrow to make sure it’s not something more serious. Hardy is currently targeting a March 1 date to be back in action and if he meets that, he should not be at risk to miss Opening Day. (end update)
At least the Orioles seem to have an obvious and excellent answer to what they’ll do at shortstop in Hardy’s absence. Machado can play there.
Not so obvious or excellent would be what they might do at third base if Hardy is out and Machado is at shortstop. Non-roster invites like Johnny Giavotella and Robert Andino have never played much, if any, third base. They are more oriented towards the middle infield. Ryan Flaherty is Ryan Flaherty. Could recently-signed Chris Johnson, son of Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson, be a possible answer?
Hopefully the Orioles never have to worry about that and Hardy will be healthy and in game shape in time for Opening Day on April 3. Until the problem is identified and resolved and Hardy is back on the field, I’ll be holding my breath a little bit.