Branyan hopes to play in Cactus games next week

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Branyan Indians.jpgRussell Branyan, who has been sidelined for the entire exhibition schedule because of a herniated disk in his back, hopes to play in a minor league game as soon as Monday.

“If you look at Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, that’s only three days,
but, in the scheme of things, that’s a lot of time,” Branyan said.
“Monday means a lot more than Wednesday, as far as getting ready for
Opening Day.”

The clock is ticking on Branyan, who just participated in outdoor batting practice for the first time all spring on Saturday. If all goes well on Monday, Branyan could play in a Cactus League game on Tuesday, but that’s assuming his nagging back condition won’t step in.

Branyan’s progress over the next week will have a significant impact on how the Indians’ Opening Day roster will play out. If Branyan is ready, Matt LaPorta will move from first base to left field, while prospect outfielder Michael Brantley will be ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Sort of makes you wonder why a rebuilding team signed such a roster headache in the first place. Rest assured, even if he is ready, Brantley will eventually see some time in the major leagues this season when Branyan inevitably hits the disabled list.

Clayton Kershaw could return on September 1

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw has been out since July 24 with a lower back strain. He’s slated to throw a three-inning simulated game in Pittsburgh on Monday, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Plunkett adds that if all goes well, the earliest Kershaw could return is August 31 against the Diamondbacks, but September 1 is more likely against the Padres.

Kershaw, 29, hit the disabled list on a pace to win his fourth Cy Young Award. He’s 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers have managed just fine without Kershaw. The club is 19-4 since July 24. At 87-35, the Dodgers own baseball’s best record, well ahead of the second-best Astros at 76-48.

Ian Kinsler was fined for ripping umpires publicly. Brad Ausmus says it’s the largest fine he’s seen in 25 years.

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Last week, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler was ejected from a game against the Rangers after giving home plate umpire Angel Hernandez a look after a pitch was thrown outside for a ball. Kinsler was apparently unhappy with calls Hernandez had made earlier. Manager Brad Ausmus, too, was ejected.

After the game, Kinsler said that Hernandez “needs to find another job.” He added, “…he needs to stop ruining baseball games.”

Kinsler was fined by Major League Baseball for his remarks, Mlive’s Evan Woodbery reports. According to Ausmus, the fine levied on Kinsler was the largest one he’s seen in nearly 25 years in baseball. Kinsler said, “I said what I felt and what I thought. If they take offense to that, then that’s their problem.” Ausmus said, “To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.”

As Ashley noted on Saturday, the umpires wore white wristbands to protest “escalating attacks on umpires.” The umpires agreed to drop their protest on Sunday after commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpire union’s governing board, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports.