Clayton Kershaw skips bullpen session due to stiff back

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Much like Giants ace Tim Lincecum, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has experienced back stiffness following his first couple of workouts in spring camp.

Also like Lincecum, who was able play to play catch Wednesday, Kershaw’s issue is thought to be minor.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick that Kershaw’s scheduled Wednesday bullpen session was cancelled, but only because the team can afford to be extra cautious this early in the spring:

“He’s been around for a while,” Mattingly said in Glendale, Arizona. “We know he’s young and he’s thrown a lot of innings and we won’t do anything to jeopardize him.”

Kershaw should be back on his normal routine by the weekend. He has already been named the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter and is not scheduled to appear in a Cactus League game until March 9. The 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner posted a dominant 2.28 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 233 1/3 innings last season.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?