Nolan Ryan expects Josh Hamilton to hit the free agent market

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this month that the Rangers had reopened negotiations with hot-hitting outfielder Josh Hamilton on a possible long-term contract extension, but it appears there’s little chance of an agreement coming together during the season.

Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan told Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com last night that the team hasn’t negotiated with Hamilton’s representatives since spring training and that they expect him to test the free agent market this offseason.

“We haven’t carried on the negotiations during the season because we don’t feel like it’s fair to Josh,” said Ryan, who pointed out general manager Jon Daniels spoke briefly with Hamilton’s agent during spring training. “And we don’t want to do something that will be a distraction.”

“…We are certainly in hopes that we’ll able to work a deal out with him. But I think [Hamilton and his agent] had the mindset they’ll go through the season and see what happens and see what the market is for Josh Hamilton. It’s hard to make any kind of prediction where that will go. I think it’s probably pretty much where we are.”

Ryan expects something will be decided in late November or early December, which means they’ll have as good a chance to sign him as anyone else. If Hamilton manages to stay on the field and keeps producing at an elite level, his best offer could come elsewhere.

Hamilton, who turns 31 on Monday, is hitting .392/.444/.804 with 18 homers, 45 RBI and a 1.249 OPS across 162 plate appearances this season.

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.