Rays officially sign Felipe Lopez to a minor league contract

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Felipe Lopez and the Rays officially agreed to a minor-league contract today. He’ll get an invitation to spring training and compete for a bench job, but because it’s not a major-league deal the Red Sox won’t receive a compensatory draft pick for letting him go.

Boston signed Lopez as a free agent in late September, bought out the 2011 option on his contract for $15,000, and then offered him arbitration knowing he would decline. And it almost got them a “free” draft pick between the first and second rounds, except the market for Lopez was incredibly weak after he wore out his welcome with Tony La Russa and the Cardinals last year.

Lopez is just a season removed from hitting .310 with an .810 OPS, so it’s a nice low-cost flier for the Rays.

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.