If Orioles don’t bring in new closer, Tommy Hunter the “clear favorite” to take over for Jim Johnson

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The Orioles’ closer situation is well-publicized at this point, considering their signing-then-unsigning of Grant Balfour was in the headlines for a while, and we also learned they have talked with the Phillies about Jonathan Papelbon and have shifted their focus to free agent Fernando Rodney as well. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports that, if the Orioles aren’t able to grab a new closer from outside the organization, Tommy Hunter would be the “clear favorite” to take over the closer’s role.

Hunter has been used as a starter for the vast majority of his career, starting 75 of 98 games in which he had appeared entering the 2013 season. However, in 2013, the Orioles used him as a full-time reliever with good results. Hunter posted a 2.81 ERA in 68 relief outings spanning 86.1 innings of work, striking out 68 and unintentionally walking 13.

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.