Can Barry Zito be the Comeback Player of the Year?

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Barry Zito 2.jpgAs I was reading Aaron’s last post one thought sprung to my mind: “I guess Barry Zito is the Comeback Player of the Year.” But then I thought about that a bit and now I’m not so sure.

Can you be the Comeback Player of the Year simply because of the expectations caused by your giant contract?  I mean, Zito had an ERA+ of 108 last year, which means that he was an above-average starter. To the extent that he is having a “comeback” year it is only because he’s paid to be an ace and has not been.

That doesn’t seem to be the point of the award, though. The award has only been around since 2005, but it has almost always gone to guys who suffered serious injuries or health problems (e.g. Jason Giambi, Chris Carpenter) suffered serious personal setbacks (e.g. Dmitri Young) or whose performance was so bad that it represented a career-threatening obstacle (e.g. Cliff Lee, who had been sent to the minors).

Zito doesn’t fit into any of those categories. He hasn’t been hurt. By all accounts his comfortable Bay Area existence has not been fraught with adversity. He pitched poorly in 2008, but (a) that was two years ago; and (b) he has otherwise been average or a little better.

If Zito wins the Comeback Player of the Year Award this season it’ll be solely because of the money he makes, not because he necessarily came back from anything. And I’m not sure I’m cool with that.

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.