Brian McCann is hoping to be ready by Opening Day

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Brian McCann was projected to miss the first few weeks of the season following shoulder surgery, but he’s more optimistic about it:

“If all goes well, it’s going to be hard for me to sit there and watch the team on Opening Day, if I’m feeling good … Being three months out of surgery, I feel like I’m ahead of schedule.  I feel better each day, and I’m very encouraged by the signs that I have received recently. Now that I’ve had the surgery, I can tell a huge difference with my range of motion and flexibility. This is as free as my shoulder has been for a few years.”

His speedy and effective return would eliminate a pretty big headache for the Braves. They signed Gerald Laird, but they lost David Ross, so if McCann is absent or ineffective, the catching corps is quite depleted compared to last season.

It would help him too, of course. He’s entering the final year of his contract.  If he returns to form and shows durability, he’s going to get a pretty massive deal for next year, one would assume.

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.