Ryan Vogelsong suffers back strain, down 7-10 days

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Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong suffered a back strain earlier this month while lifting weights in Pennsylvania. The 34-year-old starter is still in recovery mode, and won’t engage in normal spring training activities for another 7-10 days.

If Vogelsong can avoid setbacks he should have little trouble getting sufficiently tuned up for the start of the 2012 regular season. But it’s obviously not an ideal way for a guy to open spring camp.

Vogelsong revitalized his career in a big way last year, posting a surprising 2.71 ERA and 139/61 K/BB ratio in 179 2/3 innings. He was rewarded with a two-year, $8 million contract in January.

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.