Drew Silva

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Scott Kazmir cleared to return to A’s rotation Friday

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Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir had to make an early exit from a start last Wednesday against the Tigers after experiencing tightness in his throwing shoulder, but he made it through a 30-pitch bullpen session Sunday without issue and said he felt “great” after a followup throwing session Tuesday.

MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports that Kazmir has been cleared to return to the A’s starting rotation this Friday night for the opening of a three-game weekend series at Fenway Park. There will be no pitch count, though the A’s trainers are sure to watch him closely considering his littered history of arm injuries and the value he gives Oakland as a (healthy) trade chip.

Kazmir, 31, has a 2.93 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 57/25 K/BB ratio through 58 1/3 innings this season for the last-place A’s, who entered play Tuesday with a disappointing 20-33 record. Kazmir is in the final year of a two-year, $22 million contract.

Justin Verlander struggles in first rehab start

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Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander pitched in a live game Sunday for the first time since spring training and his arm didn’t fall off, but the results weren’t all that inspiring.

Verlander surrendered six hits, two walks, and three runs over just 2 2/3 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis, needing 79 pitches in an outing that didn’t make it into the fourth inning. The veteran figures to make at least one more minor league start before the Tigers consider putting him into their rotation.

Verlander has been out all season with a right triceps strain.

He finished the 2014 campaign with an ugly 4.54 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 206 innings.

Video: Bartolo Colon hit an RBI double

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This would have been an inside-the-park home run for like 90 percent of major leaguers …

What a beauty. That was only the second extra-base hit of Bartolo Colon’s 18-year big league career.

Johnny Cueto to return to Reds’ rotation Tuesday

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Johnny Cueto hasn’t pitched since May 19 due to stiffness in his right elbow, but he made it through a bullpen session on Sunday morning without issue and has been cleared to return to the Reds’ starting rotation Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

“I feel like I lost a month. I feel like it’s been forever,” Cueto told the Cincinnati Enquirer, via interpreter Tomas Vera. “Thank God it was only a little thing that happened, I’m fine and I’m good to go.”

Cueto has posted a 3.03 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 60/12 K/BB ratio in 65 1/3 innings this season for the Reds. If his health cooperates, the 29-year-old impending free agent will be one of the biggest chips on this year’s trade market.

Ben Zobrist is one of the Cubs’ “biggest targets”

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Via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

While the Cubs keep their eye on the pitching market as they mull a buyer’s approach for the trade deadline, one of their biggest targets heading into June is play-anywhere hitter Ben Zobrist of the Oakland Athletics, according to multiple sources.

Zobrist is capable of playing all over the diamond, so he’s a fit for just about every contending team. But the 34-year-old has a direct connection to Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who managed Zobrist when he was with the Rays, and Wittenmyer notes that Chicago actually tried to acquire Zobrist over the winter.

If the A’s go into early sell mode — their record right now is 19-33 — this could come together quickly.

Zobrist is scheduled to become a free agent five days after the conclusion of the 2015 World Series.