Cuban center fielder Yasiel Balaguer defects with eye on MLB

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Yasiel Balaguer, a 17-year-old center fielder considered one of the top prospects in Cuba, has defected to Nicaragua in order to become a free agent and sign with an MLB team, according to Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald.

Ebro reports that Balaguer is now being represented by the Miami Sports agency and calls him “a natural leadoff batter and an explosive baserunner” who “is an extraordinary defensive player because of his arm.”

Baseball America‘s reports on Balaguer are far less glowing, but he’s definitely viewed as a legitimate prospect.

Jose Iglesias and Noel Arguelles defected from Cuba as teenagers last year, with Iglesias joining the Red Sox for $8.25 million and Arguelles getting $7 million from the Royals.

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.