Valentine a finalist — but not the favorite — for the Nats job

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Nats have narrowed their managerial choices down to two: current skipper Jim Riggleman and Bobby Valentine.  However, the Nats are more likely to stay the course than make the sexier pick in Valentine, says Rosenthal, for the simple reason that Riggleman won’t demand as much money as Valentine is presumed to want.

One the one hand you can look at this as the Nats being cheap: Valentine is a better manager than Riggleman and the Nats need some identity, so why not pay for it?

But I can’t say it’s a bad move on their part.  The Nats aren’t ready to win yet and whether Bobby Valentine plans to be in the game long enough to see the process through — as opposed to simply get back into the Majors in order to become a viable candidate for other, more attractive jobs — is an open question. In contrast, given how interminable the Nats’ managerial search has seemed to be, we know that Riggleman has patience.

If I’m the Nats, I probably stay the course with company-man Riggleman until the point when they truly look like they’re ready to take it to next level.  He’ll abide by the pitch count restrictions the brass wants to place on Strasburg. He won’t rock the boat while the youngins mature.  If the team surprises under his watch, great, but mostly he’s around until the team starts to look like a winner.  Then Washington can court a marquee manager.

Maybe even Bobby Valentine.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.