The Orioles are moving closer to a healthier infield as manager Buck Showalter revealed J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty are set to begin a rehab assignment Monday.
The pair will report to Double-A Bowie and could be ready to rejoin the Orioles this weekend in New York. Hardy has been sidelined with a left shoulder strain since late March while Flaherty (groin strain) is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list as early as Friday.
Showalter said the Orioles will play it by ear with Hardy, who hasn’t received any live-game action since the Grapefruit League schedule, but his return will help solidify an infield that’s turned to the likes of Everth Cabrera, Rey Navarro, and even Steve Pearce at the middle infield positions. Flaherty ran the bases at Tropicana Field prior to Sunday’s finale without any reported concerns.
How the Orioles will handle their 25-man roster when Hardy and Flaherty are activated remains to be seen. Navarro possesses minor-league options and is a logical choice to be sent out, but the other move would be more complicated. David Lough and Jimmy Paredes are both out of options, but the latter has emerged as the everyday designated hitter over the last two weeks.
The Orioles could give up on Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, but going with an 11-man pitching staff would only be a short-term fix.
Would Showalter continue the Pearce experiment at second base and choose to option Cabrera or Flaherty to Triple-A Norfolk? The veteran super utility player has survived thus far at his new position, but he has only been tested there for a couple games.
It should be interesting.
In other injury-related news, Matt Wieters continues to catch in extended spring training games every other day in Sarasota, but there is still no timetable for him to begin a rehab assignment with a minor-league affiliate. The three-time All-Star selection told reporters in St. Petersburg that recovery from soreness between games is still an issue.
Wieters is two weeks away from the 11-month mark from undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 17, 2014.
Left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright (left trapezius strain) is scheduled to pitch in his first extended spring game on May 19, according to Showalter.