Thursday's off day — which halted a span of 20 games in 20 days for the Orioles — was a needed respite for everyone on the club.
But perhaps nobody appreciated it more than J.J. Hardy, who also had Wednesday off because manager Buck Showalter said his shortstop was dealing with a "barky" right shoulder.
Truthfully, Hardy said Saturday, his shoulder has been screaming and howling for the past couple weeks — hurting so much that he considered receiving a cortisone shot similar to the one he had in March when the problem first arose. Instead, Hardy has decided to stick with a rotator-cuff strengthening program — usually reserved for pitchers — that he says is definitely working.
"It was [a consideration], yeah. I took that shot in spring training and it was fine for about six weeks and then (pain) started to come back," said Hardy, who hit his 10th homer of the season Saturday. "But I told them I'll do it as kind of a last resort thing, but I want to do this treatment. I want to do this pitcher's rotator cuff program thing and see if we can't get it better without having to do the shot."
After two days of rest, Hardy played Friday and said his shoulder was "the best it has felt in a long time."
That's a sharp contrast from about a week ago. On May 17, during an afternoon game in Kansas City, Hardy said he was in extensive pain each time he threw a ball to first.
"That was the worst," said Hardy, who has played in 45 of the club's 47 games. "I judge it by that day, being the worst, and it hasn't been near that since. It could have been the long game the night before, the quick turnaround and it just didn't have time to recover. I don't know what it was, but that day was terrible. It hasn't been anywhere near that day since then."
Hardy has not had his shoulder pain diagnosed. He can't really describe it — it's not a shooting pain and it really only hurts when he makes a hard, quick throw. It's fine when he hits and when he can plant his feet and throw.
"If I can get a routine ground ball and I can get all my momentum going at first base, it's no problem. But it's the rush throws that hurt, double play balls where I can't get my feet underneath me and I have to throw all arm," Hardy said. "Or a relay throw or something like that. But for the most part I can make every throw and it's not going to affect me."
He has no plans on having a MRI at this point.
"No, and I don't really want one," Hardy said. "I am going to play through it no matter what. And if an MRI reveals something, then it will just play mind games with me. So I am going to keep doing this and I believe it is getting better."