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Hardy encouraged by improvement in back

NEW YORK -- Shortstop J.J. Hardy was as encouraged on Wednesday as he has been and said that he will test his lower back during the team's off-day on Thursday, with the goal of starting on Friday.

"Pretty excited about it," Hardy said of how the spasms in his lower back have progressed. "I feel like tomorrow I'll be able to go to the field, run around, do some stuff and really test it out and hopefully be ready to go [on Friday]."

Hardy has missed five of the past six games, playing on Saturday in Detroit only to leave on Sunday during batting practice after his back locked up in a different spot while taking ground balls.

"I don't want it to spasm up again and make me miss more time," he said. "I'm hoping when I get back from this, I'll be able to play the rest of the games from here on out. I definitely don't want to have a setback with this."

Hardy was available off the bench on Wednesday. Ryan Flaherty started at shortstop in his place, with Jonathan Schoop at third base.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
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