John Baker hoping to win roster spot even if he can’t catch

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John Baker has just recently started soft-tossing from 45 feet following September elbow surgery and likely won’t be cleared to catch again until at least May even if he avoids setbacks, but he’s still hoping to win a spot on the Marlins’ roster coming out of spring training.

He’ll be able to swing at full strength long before he’s able to do the same throwing, so Baker will try to show the Marlins that he’s capable of providing value as a pinch-hitter. When healthy Baker has a solid bat, hitting .273 with a .358 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage in 744 career plate appearances, but it may be tough for the Marlins to justify filling a roster spot with someone who can’t play defense at all.

Baker started 112 games behind the plate in 2009 and looked like the Marlins’ long-term answer at catcher before last year’s elbow injury, but this offseason Florida signed John Buck to a three-year, $18 million deal that seemingly makes him Baker’s replacement in 2011 and beyond. Where that leaves Baker, at age 30, is unclear, but he’s saying all the right things about focusing on getting healthy and being willing to fill whatever role he can while recovering.

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.