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Back improved, Hardy available for Orioles

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NEW YORK -- J.J. Hardy, who has missed four of the past five games with nagging back spasms, was "a lot better" on Tuesday, according to Buck Showalter. The Orioles' manager said the shortstop would be available against the Yankees off the bench.

"He's much more available," Showalter said of Hardy. "I'm optimistic that he will be an option today. [We will] see how the rest of the day goes. But I would have said that [Monday]."

Gamesmanship aside, the Orioles are optimistic Hardy will avoid the disabled list and return to the starting lineup in the next day or two. Without Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado, who is recovering from left knee surgery in October, Showalter has employed an infield that includes Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop and Steve Lombardozzi, leaving no infielders on the bench and limiting his in-game moves. Hardy was not available for Baltimore during Monday's 4-2 loss to New York.

"[Hardy is] improved," Showalter said. "[He's] very close to being ready to start. Hopefully, he'll give us more options than we had yesterday. We'll see by game time. You can tell by his face [that he's feeling better], so that's good."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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