Hardy expects to return to lineup this weekend

Hardy expects to return to lineup this weekend

BALTIMORE -- J.J. Hardy's sprained left thumb continues to improve incrementally, and by the weekend, he should be back in the Orioles' lineup. But for Wednesday's series finale with the Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards he remained sidelined.

"Came in today, had a bigger improvement and real positive about the way it feels," the shortstop said.

Hardy has been sidelined since Sunday, when he was scratched about a half-hour before the start of the O's series finale with the Cardinals. He injured the thumb a day earlier when he slid into St. Louis catcher A.J. Pierzynski at home plate. Ryan Flaherty has filled in at shortstop in each of the past three games.

Hardy received an MRI on the thumb on Tuesday that came back clean, confirming the sprain. He'll continue with treatment on Wednesday and during Thursday's off-day, and expects to return during this weekend's series against the Indians.

"Play it by ear if we're going to do any baseball activity tomorrow, but I'd like to, and my goal is to be on the field in the Cleveland series," Hardy said. "Not sure which day."

Hardy's injury comes at a time when a remarkably healthy Baltimore infield has suddenly been bitten by the injury bug. Third baseman Manny Machado was placed on the disabled list with a right knee sprain on Wednesday, leaving Chris Davis to start at third base. When Hardy returns to the starting lineup, Davis will be able to return to first base as Flaherty or Jonathan Schoop can move over to third.

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.