Clayton Kershaw is back tonight

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After missing all of the 2014 season to date except that early start in Australia has been tough on Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, but he’ll make his return tonight against the Washington Nationals.

Kershaw struck out nine batters over five innings in a minor-league rehab start last last week, his teres major muscle appearing to be in OK shape. In his absence, the Dodgders’ bullpen has had to work harder than any team’s pen in the National League, so his return is most welcome.

My feeling: this little stint on the DL may actually be a blessing in disguise for Kershaw and the Dodgers. Come September and, playoff gods willing, October, Kershaw will have far fewer innings on that arm and may be able to pitch deeper into games than he would if he had been going full-tilt since the start of the season.

Report: Red Sox, J.D. Martinez close to a deal

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Red Sox and outfielder J.D. Martinez are close to a deal. He takes care to note that the deal is not done yet and the details are not known yet.

Martinez, 30, entered the offseason as the top free agent hitter. Last season, between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, he hit a lusty .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI in 489 plate appearances. He missed the first 33 games of the season with a sprained right foot; one wonders what his numbers might’ve been like if he hadn’t been injured.

The Red Sox were the team most strongly linked to Martinez throughout the offseason, despite the relatively slow-moving market. Martinez said he wants to play in the outfield and the Red Sox are currently spoken for at all three positions with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. Hanley Ramirez is also penciled in at DH. Should the Martinez deal become official, the Red Sox may try to trade Bradley and move Benintendi to center field. If Martinez is willing to concede his outfield wishes, the Red Sox could slot him in at DH and move Ramirez to first base.

The AL East is shaping up to be a familiar two-horse race between the Red Sox and Yankees. The addition of Martinez, in a way, answers the Yankees’ addition of Giancarlo Stanton.