Zack Greinke is your first-third NL Cy Young

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The last couple of years I’ve done first-third awards at the end of May, handing out Rookie of the Years, Cy Youngs and MVPs at the end of May based on what had happened 54 or so games in.

This year, I’m going to call one a little early: Zack Greinke will be the first-third Cy Young in the NL.

Greinke has looked terrific right since the start of the spring, and he was especially exceptional in Saturday’s season debut, shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings. He allowed three hits, walked none and struck out seven.

The Greinke we’re seeing now looks a whole lot like the one who won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award with the Royals. He ended that year with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229 1/3 innings. The two years since have been modest disappointments, as he finished with a 4.17 ERA in his last year in K.C. and a 3.83 ERA in his first in Milwaukee, but he did strike out a career-best 10.5 batters per nine innings last season, showing his stuff was intact.

Whether he’ll keep it together for the whole year remains to be seen. He has plenty of incentive, this being his walk year, but Greinke seems to look at the world a bit differently than most of the rest of us and his results haven’t always matched his stuff. I’ll trust him to keep it going for a couple of months anyway. For the full year, I think I’d still rather take my chances with Roy Halladay or Clayton Kershaw.

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.