The Clemente family would like to semi-retire Roberto Clemente’s number

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A few years ago, the family of Roberto Clemente got behind a movement to try to have Roberto Clemente’s number 21 retired across all of baseball, just as Jackie Robinson’s 42 is retired.

Bud Selig put the kibosh on that. I agreed with Bud, frankly. Clemente was a special player and the example of both his life and his death were inspiring ones, but Robinson’s honor should remain singular. If you do it for Clemente, you open the door for good arguments for retiring the numbers of lots of special players/inspirational men.

But, as Dejan Kovacevic reports in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune, the Clementes have an alternative suggestion.  Fine, don’t retire Clemente’s number. But make it special. Semi-retired if you will, with it being handed out sparingly to those who are deemed worthy:

So, if a Puerto Rican such as the New York Mets’ Carlos Beltran asks to wear the number and honor Clemente as many Latino players have done …

“No,” Vera interjected. “He has to earn it.”

That’s when it resonated: The only players who could wear No. 21 would be those who have won the Roberto Clemente Award, which has been given annually since 1972 — the year of Clemente’s death — to players of all 30 teams who best exemplify excellence on and off the field.

There’s a certain cool-factor to this. You win the Clemente award and you win the right to wear 21.  It’s not retired, it’s just special. It’s certainly a unique idea.

My biggest problem with it: players are weird about their numbers and don’t like to change them. If they did this, would the player be obligated to wear 21?  If not, would he be slammed if, for some reason, he decided that good luck and fate and habit demanded that he keep the number that has served him so well in the past?  “Derek Jeter thinks he’s too good to wear Clemente’s number!” some headline might scream. Does anyone really want that?

And that’s the thing: check out the list of Clemente Award winners.  Lots of guys on there already have their own iconic numbers that either have been or one day will be retired. We cool with Jeter changing from number 2 in 2009?  How about Cal Ripken? Ozzie Smith? Pujols? Willie Freakin’ Mays?

I appreciate that the Clementes and Roberto Clemente supporters want to do something special to honor him.  But there are practical limitations to what can and should be done in this regard. I don’t think we’re at risk of forgetting Clemente. But if we start doing this kind of thing, we’re going to make things more awkward than they need to be.

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.