Tigers’ odd defensive alignment includes Ryan Raburn at designated hitter

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As expected the Tigers’ defensive alignment for Opening Day is a weird one.

Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Delmon Young are all in the lineup and yet the designated hitter is … Ryan Raburn, who’d be a better third baseman than Cabrera, a better first baseman than Fielder, and a better left fielder than Young.

Raburn is hardly a standout defender, but he’s started big-league games at second base, third base, first base, and all three outfield spots. Jim Leyland has seen fit to play him at second base for 778 innings and in center field for 173 innings during previous seasons, yet has determined the best defensive alignment for a team with no fewer than three terrible defenders involves Raburn not even using his glove.

Poor guy.

I’m pretty convinced that the Tigers will coast to the AL Central title this season, but if there’s anything capable of keeping them from the playoffs the inability to turn balls in play into outs would seemingly be it. Of course, having said that Justin Verlander will probably throw a no-hitter today.

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.