Paul Konerko, Shane Victorino win All-Star Final Vote

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Paul Konerko and Shane Victorino went wire-to-wire in winning the All-Star Game Final Vote and will be the 34th men on their respective teams next week.

With no Yankees nor Red Sox making the cut, Konerko’s path to claiming the AL opening was clear.  He held off Victor Martinez, Alex Gordon, Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist for the much-deserved nod.  Konerko ranks fourth in the AL with 22 homers and 64 RBI and sixth with a .319 average.

Victorino also looked like the right choice, if only because the NL couldn’t even put fellow center fielder Andrew McCutchen on the ballot.  Victorino, who also won the final vote in 2009, beat out Andre Ethier, Todd Helton, Michael Morse and Ian Kennedy.

Unfortunately, Victorino is currently sidelined with a sprained right thumb that could keep him out of next week’s contest.  But maybe that just means McCutchen will take his spot.  The NL squad had just one legitimate center fielder in Matt Kemp before Victorino was added, so it’s make more sense to replace him with another center fielder than with Ethier.

7:25 p.m. EDT update: A cool note from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin:

Konerko was to get $15,000 bonus for making the All-Star team. As a thank you for the fan vote, he’s donating it to White Sox Charities

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.