Hardy still taking it slow with left shoulder

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BALTIMORE — Beginning their 24th season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Orioles hope the weather will cooperate as they host the Toronto Blue Jays in their home opener on Friday afternoon.

An overcast setting accompanied by a forecast of afternoon thunderstorms provided the topic of conversation, but the Orioles hope to continue their run of success in home openers at Camden Yards as they are 17-6 since 1992. Baltimore owns a 41-20 combined record in home openers dating back to 1954.

Though currently on the 15-day disabled list after suffering a left shoulder strain in late March, shortstop J.J. Hardy continues to make progress as the club hopes to send him on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment next week. On Thursday, Hardy took swings with a fungo bat and expressed no major concerns to reporters the following morning. The plan is for Hardy to swing once again on Friday — potentially with his regular bat or even hitting off a tee.

This is considered the final hurdle as his shoulder has responded well to all other baseball-related activity.

“We still have to take it day by day and see how I feel,” Hardy said. “We’re not putting a time limit on it, because it puts more pressure on it. It’s definitely getting better.”

Outfielder David Lough (left hamstring) is expected to play in an intrasquad game in Sarasota on Friday. Manager Buck Showalter said the plan is to send Lough to Single-A Frederick for a rehab assignment as early as Saturday, but the Orioles have left open the possibility of activating him from the DL this weekend.

Below are the lineups for the home opener:

TORONTO
SS Jose Reyes
CF Dalton Pompey
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
3B Josh Donaldson
C Dioner Navarro
1B Justin Smoak
LF Kevin Pillar
2B Devon Travis

SP Mark Buehrle (2014 stats: 13-10, 3.39 ERA, 1.36 WHIP)

BALTIMORE
SS Everth Cabrera
LF Steve Pearce
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
DH Delmon Young
3B Manny Machado
RF Travis Snider
2B Jonathan Schoop
C Caleb Joseph

SP Bud Norris (2014 stats: 15-8, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)