Nationals sign Alex Cora to a minor league contract

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Last week the Nationals were said to be targeting Jerry Hairston Jr. as their utility man replacement for Willie Harris, who signed a minor-league deal with the Mets.

However, according to Bill Ladson of they turned their attention to Alex Cora because “some in the organization believe [Hairston’s] asking price would be too steep” and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that Cora has agreed to a minor-league contract that would be worth $900,000 plus $600,000 in potential incentives if he makes the team.

Of course, the reason Cora’s asking price isn’t as steep is that he isn’t as good. Or good, period.

Cora hit .210 with a .266 on-base percentage and .278 slugging percentage in 194 plate appearances for the Mets and Rangers last season, and also batted just .251/.320/.310 in 308 trips to the plate for the Mets in 2009. And at age 35 he’s no longer a reliable option defensively at shortstop, making him a bottom-of-the-barrel utility man target.

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.