Rays exercise 2014 options on Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar

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As expected, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays have exercised their 2014 options on Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar.

It was an easy call to retain the versatile Zobrist for $7 million after he batted .275/.354/.402 with 12 home runs and 71 RBI this past season. The Rays still hold a $7.5 million team option on him for 2015. As for Escobar, he’ll be back at a $5 million salary after he batted .256/.332/.366 with nine home runs and 56 RBI during his first season in Tampa while providing excellent defense at shortstop. Like Zobrist, the Rays still have a $5 million team option to keep him around for 2015.

The Rays have until Sunday to make a call on David DeJesus’ option ($6.5 million) while a decision on Juan Carlos Oviedo ($2 million) is due by Monday.

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.