Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is out of the starting lineup for the third straight game, but manager Buck Showalter indicated he’s close to returning from nagging back spasms.

Showalter indicated that Hardy could be an option off the bench for today’s game against the New York Yankees in The Bronx.

“A lot better, much more available,” Showalter said. “I’m optimistic he’d be an option today. We’ll see how the rest of the day goes. I wouldn’t have said that yesterday. He’s improved, very close to being ready to start. Hopefully, it will give us more options than we had yesterday. … You can tell just by his face. So that’s good.”
Being without Hardy handcuffed Showalter from making some substitutions in Monday’s 4-2 loss to New York.

With Manny Machado still recovering from offseason left knee surgery and Hardy out, the Orioles have been without the Gold Glove left side of the infield and shortstop Ryan Flaherty and third baseman Jonathan Schoop have struggled filling in.

Flaherty and Schoop are a combined 4-for-42 this season.