Nelson Cruz expected to be in Orioles’ lineup Tuesday

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The Orioles were given quite the scare yesterday when slugger Nelson Cruz was hit on the left hand with a pitch, but the early word is that he’s on track to be in the starting lineup tomorrow against the Rangers.

Fortunately no fracture was found in Cruz’s hand and he’s only dealing with a contusion. The swelling is down and he’s able to grip a bat, so Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com writes that the Orioles are “encouraged” that he’ll be able to play tomorrow. It’s no sure thing, as the final test will be batting practice tomorrow, but the good news is that it’s a day-to-day situation.

Signed to a one-year, $8 million deal over the winter, Cruz has been a tremendous bargain for the Orioles and one of the most productive hitters in the game. The 33-year-old is batting .314/.384/.672 in 54 games and leads the majors with 20 home runs and 52 RBI. He was named the AL Player of the Week earlier today.

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.