Andy Pettitte is among the people surprised by how well Andy Pettitte is pitching

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Andy Pettitte struck out 10 batters in shutting out the Rays for 7.1 innings last night, improving his ERA to 2.78 in five starts since coming out of retirement.

And afterward the Yankees left-hander admitted to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that even he’s surprised by how well he’s pitching at age 39:

The feel for all my pitches has just gotten better, I feel like. I feel like as long as I can stay healthy and you carry somewhat of a velocity on your fastball to keep hitters honest, if I can keep moving the ball around and keep the feel of my pitches, I feel like I’m going to be how I was when I left. I’ve said it, you don’t really know what to expect coming back, but I’m obviously pleasantly surprised so far that I’ve been like I’ve been.

Pettitte’s average fastball has lost some zip, going from 89 miles per hour before retirement to 87 miles per hour now, but his secondary numbers show that his first sub-3.00 ERA since 2005 isn’t merely a fluke. He’s inducing more ground balls than ever before and has a 32/7 K/BB ratio in 36 innings for his best strikeout rate since 2004 and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his 17-year career.

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.