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Inbox: What's the latest on Tillman, Britton?

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers fans' questions
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

Thursday is the Orioles' first off-day this spring, and it's as good a time as any to answer some of your most common and pressing questions.

What's the latest on Zach Britton and Chris Tillman?
-- Rob F., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Thursday is the Orioles' first off-day this spring, and it's as good a time as any to answer some of your most common and pressing questions.

What's the latest on Zach Britton and Chris Tillman?
-- Rob F., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Both Britton and Tillman threw bullpen session on Wednesday, which is a good sign, and the next step for each pitcher will be determined by how their body responds to that. For Britton (oblique), being ready for Opening Day isn't in jeopardy as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. Obviously with Tillman, who is a starter and who we knew from the outset of camp wouldn't be ready to go on April 3, things will progress differently.

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It's definitely a good sign that they've both moved to regular full bullpen sessions. So long as they stay on track it looks like the Orioles could avoid either guy missing serious time, which is huge. Tillman (shoulder) will obviously need to build his arm back up a lot more and have his own Spring Training before the O's consider him as an option.

Video: Outlook: Tillman is a solid back-end rotation option

Are the Orioles concerned at all with J.J. Hardy? He's had some injury issues in the past and now again this spring.
-- Mary M., Columbia, Md.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Sarasota, Fla., on Wednesday that Hardy was "very close" to returning to full baseball workouts with the team, meaning spring games aren't far behind. As a position player, you can really speed up getting ready in the spring, so it doesn't look -- right now -- like Hardy's in jeopardy of missing Opening Day.

Is there concern because Hardy has been dealing with a back injury that has plagued him before? Of course. The O's are a much better team, particularly defensively, when he is at shortstop. Hardy's presence on the field and in the clubhouse can't be understated, and it has already been pointed out several times this spring by young infielders Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado.

You can look at it two ways. One is that the Orioles and Hardy caught the injury early enough -- and he passed all the structural tests -- and hope it won't crop up again. Or you can panic that he's already dealing with something. Showalter and the rest of the staff will take the first option, particularly as Hardy enters a big year and the team will have to decide whether to pick up his option for next season.

Do you think Trey Mancini will make the team?
-- Pat S., Dundalk, Md.

I had Mancini on my preseason predictions, and I'm sticking with it. He's definitely not a lock, but assuming Tillman doesn't go north with the Orioles, the early off-days create opportunities for some roster maneuvering. And no one takes better advantage of roster manipulation than the O's.

Video: BAL@DET: Mancini doubles in a pair in the 3rd

If they do go heavy on the position players for the Opening Day roster, I think Mancini has a shot. He crushes left-handed pitching, a team need, and deserves a chance after being a great late-September addition. If Mancini does make the team, though, he could be a quick victim of a roster crunch, depending on what the O's do elsewhere.

Why is Machado playing for the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic?
-- Dave R. Norfolk, Va.

This question keeps coming up. Maybe it's because fans don't like seeing Machado in any other uniform? Machado said last year he planned on playing for the Dominican, where his family is from. Yes, he was raised in Miami, but this was something he really wanted to do for his mother and grandparents. Playing in the World Baseball Classic is a big honor and, for a lot of guys, there's no guarantee it will happen more than once. So Machado wanted to do this for his family. He'll be back when the defending-champion Dominican team's run is over.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman