Former major leaguer Oscar Azocar dies at 45

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Oscar Azocar, who played with the Yankees and Padres during a three-season career that began in 1990, passed away Monday in a Venezuelan hospital. He was 45.
Originally a pitching prospect, Azocar had a 2.30 ERA over 168 1/3 innings in his first three seasons in the Yankees farm system. Arm problems played a role in his conversion to the outfield in 1987. He reached the majors as a 25-year-old in 1990 and hit .248/.257/.355 in 214 at-bats for the Bombers. He excelled at making contact no matter where the ball was thrown, and he had just 15 strikeouts and two walks as a rookie.
After the 1990 season, Azocar was traded to the Padres for Mike Humphreys. He went on to hit .204/.239/.240 in 225 at-bats with San Diego over the following two years. He vanished from the U.S. after that, but he continued playing baseball until 2001.
Popular in his native Venezuela, he was one of two inductees into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, joining Wilson Alvarez. He played in three Caribbean Series for Venezuela.

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.