Journeyman Chad Tracy signs to play in Japan

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As NPBtracker notes, former Diamondback Chad Tracy, who struggled to reestablish himself as a big-league regular after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee following the 2007 season, is expected to sign an approx. $1.3 million deal to play with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 2011.

Tracy hit .308/.359/.553 for the Diamondbacks in his second big-league season in 2005 and followed that up with a second straight 20-homer campaign in 2006, but he began having knee woes in 2007 and hadn’t played in more than 100 games in any season since.  The injury robbed him of range at third base, and he hasn’t hit well enough to justify a starting assignment at first base.

Tracy played for the Cubs and Marlins last season, hitting .247/.306/.322 in 146 at-bats as a reserve.   He would have had to settle for a minor league contract this winter, so that $1.3 million guarantee must of looked almost as appealing as a spicy tuna roll.

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.