Initially when J.J. Hardy sat out a game last week with back spasms the Orioles said it was merely a precautionary move early in a long season, but the shortstop had to skip Sunday’s game with more back spasms.
Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports that the latest issue is actually in a different spot in Hardy’s back, but says “it’s still a concern” for the 31-year-old.
Ryan Flaherty moved from third base to shortstop to sub for Hardy, who missed a lot of time with various injuries early in his career but played 158 games in 2012 and 159 games in 2013 for the Orioles. He’s the winner of back-to-back Gold Glove awards and topped 20 homers in each of the past three seasons.
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Free agent right-hander Chris Tillman is narrowing his pool of potential suitors, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Returning to the Orioles is one option, of course, but Heyman also mentions another two undisclosed teams who are still in the running. An earlier report from Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggests that as many as four teams may be in the mix; either way, a final decision is expected by Monday.
Tillman, 29, has spent the entirety of his major league career in Baltimore. After posting career-high numbers in 2016, his progress was derailed during an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, during which he missed nearly six weeks on the disabled list with recurring right shoulder inflammation. He finished the season with a bloated 7.84 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 4.9 SO/9 over 93 innings.
While the mystery teams have yet to reveal themselves, the Blue Jays, Twins and Tigers have all expressed interest in the veteran right-hander this offseason. Both the Blue Jays and Twins have made big moves to bolster their rotations over the last few days, with the additions of Jaime Garcia and Jake Odorizzi, respectively. That doesn’t mean that Tillman is out of reach, however — if his price is right, he could provide some much-needed depth for pitching staffs that finished 15th and 22nd in the league last year.