Chris Carpenter looks good, preparing to return as a starter

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Not only is Chris Carpenter hoping to pitch this season after making a remarkably fast recovery from July surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, the former Cy Young winner is preparing to return as a starter rather than simply trying to get some innings in out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Here’s what general manager John Mozeliak told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com about Carpenter’s status:

Given the guys we have now in our bullpen, you can see some sort of piggyback scenario if it worked out that way. He has to build up his pitch count. Given the fact he hasn’t been able to throw much prior to surgery, he does feel good. It looks like he’s on track to contribute. We’re hopeful that’s what happens. When you look at how Carp was throwing, it was screaming that this deserved an opportunity for consideration. It was really what he was doing [that] allowed us to sort of rethink it.

In other words Carpenter has looked really good throwing bullpen sessions and live batting practice, which is one helluva change from the initial belief that he’d definitely miss all of this season and might not be ready to begin 2013 on the active roster.

Of course, it’s a long way from “looks good throwing on the side” to “looks good enough to trust starting games in a pennant race” but so far so good.

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.