Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz hoping to return next week

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Out since late June with elbow tendinitis, J.J. Putz threw one inning in an extended spring training game yesterday and is hoping to rejoin the Diamondbacks’ bullpen early next week.

Kirk Gibson indicated that Putz will resume closing right away, but the manager told Anthony Fenech of MLB.com that he wants to see the injured right-hander work back-to-back days before coming off the disabled list.

Putz is expected to pitch Friday and Saturday at Triple-A, so barring a setback he could be cleared to return as soon as Monday.

In his absence David Hernandez has converted 7-of-7 save chances while allowing zero runs and Putz blew four saves in June before finally being shut down, so it would make sense for the Diamondbacks to ease him back into the closer role regardless of his ability to pitch on consecutive days.

Putz, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal as a free agent this offseason, converted 16-of-16 save chances with a 1.57 ERA through the end of May before his elbow starting barking again.

Report: Orioles interested in Lance Lynn

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The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.

Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.

Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.