Back from shoulder surgery, Sergio Santos hopes to regain Blue Jays’ closer job

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The Blue Jays were largely praised when they acquired Sergio Santos from the White Sox last winter, but his first season with Toronto was a bust, as he made just six appearances due to a nagging shoulder injury which eventually required surgery. Casey Janssen stepped up as the Blue Jays’ closer in his absence by saving 22 games in 25 chances while posting a 2.54 ERA, but Santos tells Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that he’s ready to turn the page on 2012 and reclaim the closer job.

“Casey did an unbelievable job, but at the same time, I would love to be the closer,” said Santos, who is reporting to camp in early February. “That’s the role I relish. I would love to be able to go in and just compete for the job. If we go in and we compete and he beats me in the spring, I have no problem with being a seventh- or eighth-inning guy — whatever they need me to be.

“But just a chance to compete will be great, and if we’re both healthy and throwing well, with Darren coming back, our bullpen is going to be just fine.”

At the very least, the Blue Jays have makings of a potent late-inning combo. Janssen figures to have the edge over Santos going into spring training, but it’s worth noting that he’s coming off November surgery to relieve discomfort in the AC joint of his right shoulder.

Santos was solid in the closer role for the White Sox in 2011, posting a 3.55 ERA, 30 saves and a 92/29 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings. The 29-year-old right-hander is owed $6.5 million over the next two seasons while his contract includes team-friendly club options from 2015-2017.

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.