Diamondbacks looking for closer, but reunion with Valverde too costly

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Jose Valverde spent the first five years of his career in Arizona and the Diamondbacks are in the closer market with an eye toward sliding Chad Qualls back into a setup role, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that “it appears his asking price puts him out of their budget.”
There was speculation last week that Valverde might accept the Astros’ arbitration offer and force them into paying him around $10 million in 2010 because of concerns that other teams would shy away from giving up their first-round pick to sign him. He ultimately declined arbitration and based on Piecoro’s report it sounds like he’ll have little trouble finding a multi-year deal that pays him quite a bit more than that.
Matt Capps could be a lower-price closer option if the Diamondbacks are intent on stripping ninth-inning duties from Qualls, but Piecoro speculates that Arizona is unlikely to offer him a multi-year deal and various other reports have as many as a dozen teams showing interest in the former Pirates’ closer. Qualls saved 24-of-29 games with a 3.63 ERA and 45/7 K/BB ratio in 52 innings, but missed the final month with a dislocated kneecap that makes him a question mark for the start of 2010.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.