Hardy could return to lineup by this weekend

Joseph also cleared to begin rehab assignment

Hardy could return to lineup by this weekend

BALTIMORE -- J.J. Hardy played again for Double-A Bowie on Wednesday, and the earliest he could return to the Orioles is Friday.

"But it's going to be J.J's call," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "We'll let J.J. make that call. [He] had a base hit to right, flare, broken-bat flare, made a couple great plays [on Tuesday]. Great tag, they said. It was good news. As good as you can expect. Someone brought it to me in the dugout last night about the fourth or fifth inning."

Showalter said the plan is for Hardy, who has been sidelined since May 1 with a foot fracture, to play again on Thursday and the O's should have a better idea of the shortstop's return over the next day or so.

Caleb Joseph, out with a testicular injury, was cleared on Wednesday and -- barring any issues -- won't see a doctor again.

"On the 27th it will be four weeks and he'd be available to catch there [for Bowie]" Showalter said. "He started taking batting practice and throwing [Tuesday], and he'll do that again [Thursday] and then meet us at the ballpark on Friday and potentially DH for Frederick on Friday or Saturday, start that rehab.

"Position players get 20 days [of rehab], and that would carry him through the first part of July. If it goes perfect, it's a matter of how many days he needs to catch starting on the 27th. Trying to match that up with the people down there. He can actually catch some bullpens between now and then. Just got to stay away from hitters with foul balls and stuff. So far, so good."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.