La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

BREAKING NEWS: Hardy deal expected Thursday

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 9, 2010 - 1:52 AM

The Twins appear to be on the verge of sending shortstop J.J. Hardy and infielder Brendan Harris to Baltimore on Thursday for relievers Brett Jacobsen and Jim Hoey. The deal is pending physicals.

The deal, barring any last minute developments, could be wrapped up following the Rule 5 draft Thursday morning.

If it goes through, the Twins will have moved Hardy, who should make at least $6 million next season and Harris. scheduled to make $1.75 million next season. That might be important with the Twins realizing they have a chance to keep righthander Carl Pavano. 

The potential deal suggests that the Twins also are closing in on a contract with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins wouldn’t move Hardy unless they knew that they were in position to wrap up talks with Nishioka. The Twins’ middle infield combination for 2011 would be Nishioka and Alexi Casilla, with Casilla probably playing shortstop.

Jacobsen, 24, was 8-1 with a 2.79 ERA as a reliever at Class A Frederick last season. In 71 innings, he walked 24 and struck out 67. The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the other pitcher could be Hoey, who pitched for Baltimore in 2006-07 before getting injured. He posted a 3.25 ERA between Class AA and Class AAA last season.

The Twins have been kicking around potential deals for Hardy recently, with as many as six teams initially showing interest. A report earlier in the week had Hardy nearly headed to Pittsburgh before talks broke down.

Twins General Manager Bill Smith on Wednesday refused to tip his hand when asked earlier in the day if he had to make sure Nishioka was signed before he could trade a shortstop.

``First of all, I’m not going to comment on any reports,’’ Smith said. ``Nishioka is a little bit of an independent piece. He fits with everybody. If we could sign Nishioka then you have Hardy and Nishioka and (Alexi) Casilla becomes a utility guy and it’s a good fit.’’

(props to Dan Connolly and Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun for a couple details)

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