Hank Blalock said today that he plans to exercise the opt-out clause in his minor-league contract with the Rays if he’s not added to the 25-man roster by tomorrow:
I don’t have any plans on playing minor-league baseball this year. At this time in my life, if there’s no major-league opportunities for me then I’ll find something else to do. I feel like the team has to make a decision with me. I love it here. I like the way I’ve been treated, I like my teammates, I like the staff. I’d like to be part of helping the Rays win the World Series. I hope they keep me. This is where I want to stay.
If he makes the team Blalock would likely platoon with Pat Burrell at designated hitter, but with outfielder Matt Joyce expected to begin the season on the disabled list Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays may choose to keep the younger, more versatile Reid Brignac as their final bench player.
Blalock had 25 homers in 462 at-bats last season, but hit a career-worst .234 with a putrid .277 on-base percentage and 108/26 K/BB ratio, missed most of 2007 and 2008 with injuries, and may no longer be able to play third base regularly thanks to shoulder problems. In other words there are good reasons for why he managed only a minor-league deal, although the contract would pay $900,000 if he makes the team.
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.