Orioles, Grant Balfour going back and forth on potential contract

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Jen Royle of the Boston Herald is reporting that the Orioles and free agent reliever Grant Balfour are still hammering out their differences on a potential contract. The Orioles preferred a two-year deal at $6 million per year; Balfour wanted a three-year deal at $8 million per year with a vesting option. Royle’s source says there won’t be a vesting option. Royle also adds that Balfour has been offered a “sweet” deal from an unnamed team but the right-hander would prefer to work things out with the O’s.

Balfour, who turns 36 years old, is one of the few high-quality relievers still available in free agency. Joaquin Benoit remains available, and following him, Fernando Rodney would move up in the free agency rankings. Every other reliever has some inherent risk due to some combination of age, injury history, and/or inconsistency.

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.