Chiba Lotte chooses highest bid on Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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According to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Chiba Lotte Marines announced Friday (Japan time) that an MLB club has won exclusive negotiating rights with shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Chiba Lotte simply accepted the highest bid.  But they won’t announce that highest-bidding team until “a later date.”

Nishioka won the batting title in Nippon Professional Baseball this year with a .346 batting average and has been courted by several organizations state-side, including the Twins, Mariners, Orioles and Red Sox.

The Twins were thought of as the front-runners as recently as a week ago, but any team could have swooped in and out-bid the rest.  Chiba Lotte should reveal more information over the weekend or some time early next week.

The team that won Nishioka’s negotiating rights will have the next 30 days to work out a contract.  No word yet on what the middle infielder might be asking.

UPDATE: Christensen says the winning club will likely be revealed Friday (US time).

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.