Jeff Niemann signs one-year deal with Rays to avoid arbitration

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Tampa Bay and Jeff Niemann have avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3 million deal, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Niemann was arbitration eligible for the second time after earning $2.75 million last season and gets only a small bump in salary because he missed most of the year with a broken fibula followed by shoulder problems.

He’s expected to be fully healthy for spring training and will be back in the middle of the Rays’ rotation, where the 30-year-old right-hander has a 4.06 ERA and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 92 career starts.

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.