Former top Rockies prospects find the road back

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In 2010, Baseball America rated Rockies left-handers Tyler Matzek and Christian Friedrich the 23rd and 33rd best prospects in the game, respectively. They were eighth and 12th among pitchers. However, the stock of both had plummeted in the two years since, even though neither suffered a major injury. Neither came close to sniffing the top 100 this year. BA ranked them 12th and 14th, respectively, on a Rockies list that placed four players in the top 100.

Fortunately, two two are off to great starts in reviving their prospecthood. Matzek has a 1.72 ERA and a 19/8 K/BB ratio in 15 2/3 innings for high-A Modesto. Friedrich has a 2.33 ERA and an 18/3 K/BB ratio in 19 1/3 innings for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

In both cases it may be too early to get too excited. Still, the Rockies couldn’t have hoped for much more. Matzek had a 9.82 ERA and more walks (46) than strikeouts (37) in his 10 starts for Modesto last year before being demoted to low-A ball. He wasn’t any good there either, finishing with a 4.36 ERA and a 74/50 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. Friedrich ended up with ERAs of 5.05 and 5.00 in his two years at Double-A Tulsa. He went from averaging 12.0 K/9 IP in 2009 to 8.0 in 2010 and 7.0 last year.

Matzek still has a long way to go before he reaches the majors, but Friedrich might help this year if he keeps it up. Having made deals for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White and Tyler Chatwood over the last year, the Rockies may suddenly find themselves with an excess of young pitching to make available in future trade talks.

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.