Clayton Kershaw looked good in his first rehab start with Rancho Cucamonga

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw took a giant step towards a mid-May return with Friday’s rehab start with the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Facing the Lancaster JetHawks, Kershaw allowed one run on two hits and a walk while striking out six in five innings. The lefty needed 56 pitches to get through his outing.

Kershaw will still need to make one or two more rehab starts, but his performance on Friday puts a very big smile on the faces of anyone waiting for his return — especially Dodgers fans, who have watched their team drop four of their last five games. Kershaw is on schedule to return around the second week of May. When he does return, he’ll replace Paul Maholm in the rotation.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.