BOSTON -- Stressing that it was more precautionary than alarming, the Orioles sent starting shortstop J.J. Hardy back to Baltimore on Monday night to see a team doctor about his balky back.
Hardy missed the Orioles’ final two games against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field over the weekend, and he will not return for the remainder of the road trip — marking at least a five-game absence. Even if he could play Wednesday in the series finale against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Orioles didn’t like the idea of him having to take another round airplane trip so quickly.
Hardy, a two-time American League Gold Glove winner who is hitting .283 with nine home runs and 52 RBIs in 128 games this year, will be examined by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Jacobs around 1 p.m. Tuesday. Hardy is expected to undergo an MRI on his lower back, which has been bothering him since he was forced out of last Monday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.
“I did baseball stuff today, threw, took some ground balls, took some swings, and it’s good. But I’d say not quite good enough to risk playing right now and having a bigger setback,” Hardy said before Monday’s game against the Red Sox. “So I think to play it safe, [I’ll] go back and make sure, just to avoid that long period of time.”
The hope is that he will be ready to play in Friday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees, which follows Thursday’s scheduled day off. But Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that’s not a guarantee.
“I think that would be a safe assumption, but I wouldn’t be held prisoner to it,” Showalter said. “We’ll see what Mike [Jacobs] says. He’s the expert. Like J.J., I feel like we’re taking the right precaution. If we were in a different stage of the season, then we’d probably run him out there.”
Hardy, 32, missed six games in April — including five in a row — while trying to play through back spasms. He said the situation this time is much less severe, and he is not overly concerned.
“Detroit, I would say, was worse because the muscles completely locked up. I knew I was all spasmed-up to where I couldn’t play,” Hardy said. “I feel like now, emergency situation, I could [play]. I just don’t want to get to the point [like] in Detroit. So I think that’s why we are going back to Baltimore.”
Hardy had cortisone injected into his back in April, and Showalter said that seemed to help alleviate most of the discomfort. That could be an option this week.
“I don’t know if Mike and them will inject it or not,” Showalter said. “Hoping everything resolves itself well, and he plays Friday. So we take advantage of that off day.”
Meanwhile, utility infielder Ryan Flaherty is expected to get the majority of starts in Hardy’s absence, like he did Monday against the Red Sox, despite some recent costly errors.
Showalter said second baseman Jonathan Schoop also could play shortstop, if needed, and Jimmy Paredes is a third option. The Orioles also have infielder Alexi Casilla staying sharp in Sarasota, Fla., if he would be needed, though Showalter said there are no plans to bring in Casilla yet.
“There are other options I’m comfortable with, we have other people that could do it,” Showalter said. “But I think Ryan’s our best option.”