This, that and the other

SARASOTA, Fla. - Because Alex Cobb won’t be able to break camp with the Orioles, his signing this week doesn’t do much to clear up the pitching picture as opening day approaches.

A fifth starter is needed, same as before. It wasn’t going to be José Mesa Jr., designated for assignment yesterday, and Hunter Harvey was more of a temptation than a realistic consideration.

Does Cobb actually increase the chances of Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. making the club and staying with it?

The Orioles will have five right-handers in their rotation after Cobb is ready to join it. Manager Buck Showalter wants a left-hander to back them up and provide length, and Cortes certainly checks the box.

He just needs to pitch better than what he showed last night in Tampa, when he served up a three-run homer to Aaron Judge and allowed four hits with two walks and a hit batter over four innings. He was coming off 3 1/3 scoreless relief innings with only one hit allowed against the Yankees.

There’s little to no margin for error with his pitches. He needs to be trusted that he can stop the bleeding if he’s the long man.

Mike Wright Jr.’s chances of earning that fifth spot in the rotation seem to be improving.

We’re also in the same predicament of figuring out how many left-handers are carried in the bullpen. Cortes’ inclusion could impact Josh Edgin and Joely Rodriguez. We just don’t know.

However the Cobb signing plays out for the Orioles, there’s definitely been a noticeable increase in excitement at the complex over the past few days. I’ve heard the word “contend” multiple times from multiple people.

* Cobb’s agent, Dan Horwits of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, was at the Ed Smith Stadium complex over the weekend. He also represents Harvey and Chris Tillman, but he must have been in Sarasota to conduct other business.

The BHSC released the following statement last night after Cobb signed his contract.

“We have always believed in Alex’s value and we refused to bend on what he deserved despite the stalemates and odd circumstances surrounding his free-agent class,” said Horwits, president of Beverly Hills Sports Council. “We take great pride in knowing Alex and his family are part of the Baltimore Orioles organization for the next four years.”

* Infielder Ryan Flaherty will opt out of his minor league deal with the Phillies today, according to MLB.com, and the Orioles are paying close attention to the situation.

Flaherty-orange-throw-sidebar.jpgFlaherty wanted to stay with the Orioles and they made a late effort to re-sign him after expressing interest in Ryan Goins on a major league deal. No one in camp has seized the utility job and it could fall upon Danny Valencia, though he’s never played shortstop and has made only three starts at second base.

It’s possible for Flaherty and Valencia to co-exist on the 25-man roster while Mark Trumbo is on the disabled list. Keeping Pedro Álvarez, as well, might be too cumbersome on a four-man bench.

Anyway, there already were rumblings about Flaherty opting out and it appears to be happening.

* Former Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy remains home in Arizona with no major league job and appearing quite comfortable with the idea of retiring.

In other words, nothing has changed.

Hardy noted after the season that he’d need the right situation to extend his career and he’s never been viewed as someone intent on grabbing another paycheck in any situation. He’s happy with his home life and prepared to hang up his spikes.

A part-time role, with most of his days spent on the bench, never appealed to Hardy. And he’s never been a utility candidate anyway because he’s only played shortstop.

* Former Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz also remains unsigned as opening day approaches.

Matusz worked out for the Phillies, but they apparently chose to go in another direction.

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