Come February, Phil Hughes may be in the best shape of his life

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Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York notes that the Yankees weren’t pleased with Phil Hughes conditioning last year and are heartened that he appears to be taking steps to correct that heading into 2012:

Phil Hughes didn’t show up to spring training grossly overweight last February, but he’d packed on enough pounds to end up in what the New York Yankees call “fat camp.” It is for players who need to up their conditioning a bit to ready themselves for the season. With 2012 spring training now less than 100 days away, Hughes is reverting to the workout program that preceded his All-Star 2010 season, which makes Yankees GM Brian Cashman think an uptick in Hughes’ performance will follow.

So I presume that we’ll see some “Phil Hughes is in the best shape of his life stories this spring.  Which is fine.  Of course if people think that conditioning, as opposed to other physical problems, was his biggest issue in the first half of the season, well, whatever.

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.