J.J. Hardy out of Orioles’ lineup for sixth straight game

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Last week the Orioles seemed optimistic that J.J. Hardy’s back spasms would be a minor issue, but tonight the shortstop will be out of the lineup for the sixth consecutive game.

Hardy feels good enough that he told reporters he hopes to play Saturday, but the Orioles are reaching the point where a disabled list stint makes more sense if he can’t rejoin the lineup then.

Hardy had a lot of injuries early in his career, but he played 159 games last season and 158 games in 2012. In his absence Ryan Flaherty has slid over from third base to shortstop, with Jonathan Schoop taking over at third base.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.