J.J. Hardy due back from the disabled list tonight

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J.J. Hardy has been out since April 10 with a strained oblique muscle, but Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles’ shortstop is expected to come off the disabled list and rejoin the lineup for tonight’s game.

Hardy went 2-for-9 with three walks in three games rehabbing at Triple-A and the Orioles decided there was no use in asking him to play a fourth game yesterday, which is presumably a good sign.

Injuries are the primary reason why the Twins traded Hardy to the Orioles in the first place, but when healthy he’s an elite defensive shortstop with an above-average bat for the position. However, the Orioles haven’t missed him a whole lot thanks to Robert Andino uncharacteristically posting a .390 on-base percentage in his absence.

Report: Orioles interested in Alex Cobb

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.

Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.

It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.