Juan Rivera nearing return from torn hamstring

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Juan Rivera was initially expected to miss two months with a torn hamstring suffered on May 9, but the Dodgers outfielder/first baseman is so far ahead of schedule in his recovery that he’s hoping to come off the disabled list this weekend.

Rivera has already played two games on a minor-league rehab assignment and told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he’d like to be back in the Dodgers’ lineup Friday versus the Rockies.

Or at least back on the roster, that is. Rivera’s injury opened the door for Bobby Abreu to emerge as a key part of the Dodgers’ lineup in left field and there may not be much more than a platoon role waiting for Rivera when he returns.

Abreu has hit .339 with a .908 OPS in 22 games for the Dodgers and being limited mostly to facing left-handed pitching is probably the best role for Rivera at this stage of his career anyway.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.