Yadier Molina expects to return to Cardinals’ lineup Friday

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Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was removed in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks after getting crossed up with reliever Mitchell Boggs and taking a pitch off his left hand.

Molina is not in Wednesday’s lineup, but X-rays taken late Tuesday night ruled out a fracture and MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch says the 29-year-old catcher is “cautiously optimistic” that he’ll be back in action for Friday’s series-opener against the Braves.

Tony Cruz drew the nod behind the plate on Wednesday in Arizona. And the Cardinals have a scheduled off day Thursday.

Molina is batting .302/.353/.528 with four home runs, four stolen bases and 16 RBI in 29 games this season for the defending World Series champs. He inked a five-year, $75 million contract extension this spring.

The Cardinals are also expected to get Lance Berkman (calf) back on Friday after a three-week absence.

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.