Mariano Rivera making progress following vocal cord surgery

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Mariano Rivera hasn’t had any setbacks since undergoing surgery early last month to remove polyps on his vocal cords. In fact, he spent a couple hours earlier today coaching some youth players during a clinic at the Frozen Ropes baseball facility in Pine Brook, New Jersey.

According to Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger, the all-time saves leader has been speaking regularly for a couple weeks now and has one more follow-up appointment with doctors during which he hopes to get cleared to begin preparations for the season.

“I was worried about something else, even though the doctor says it doesn’t look like it,” Rivera said on Saturday morning, in his first public comments since undergoing throat surgery on Dec. 2. “But I had peace when the results came and everything was negative. Thank God, everything’s good. I’m just trying to get ready for spring training.”

Rivera, 42, posted a 1.91 ERA, 44 saves and a 60/8 K/BB ratio over 61 1/3 innings last season. While he continues to defy age and build on his reputation as the best relief pitcher ever, he has yet to declare his intentions beyond 2012.

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.