Though it’s taken longer than expected, Baltimore Orioles’ All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment. Hardy has not played for the Orioles this season since injuring his left shoulder making a diving play in Spring Training. The shortstop will rehab with Double-A Bowie, and could join the Orioles in New York by the end of the weekend for the Yankees series, according to Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore.

Utility infielder Ryan Flaherty will also join Hardy in Bowie. Flaherty has been sidelined with a groin injury and is eligible to return from the disabled list on Friday. Both are expected to play at least three games with the Baysox and may play a fourth game on Thursday morning.

The Orioles infield depth has been stretched thin with the absences of Hardy and Flaherty, as well as second baseman Jonathan Schoop who is out with a knee injury. Everth Cabrera has been playing shortstop full time since Flaherty went down, while rookie Rey Navarro has been the primary second baseman. Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter did give Steve Pearce a try at second base last week, but don’t expect that to happen again. If Hardy and Flaherty return at the same time, the Orioles’ infield options will be significantly improved.

There is still no timetable for the return of another Orioles’ All-Star on the disabled list, as Matt Wieters continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery in extended Spring Training. Wieters caught five innings in EST on Saturday, and is currently catching every other day. Wieters caught in only one Spring Training game before being shut down with pain in his surgically repaired right elbow.

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