So long, Pirates: A.J. Burnett signs with the Phillies

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Just minutes after news that Cole Hamels could miss the beginning of the season due to a biceps injury the Phillies have made a big move for the rotation: Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that they’ve signed A.J. Burnett to a one-year contract. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com says it’s worth $16 million.

Burnett had two fantastic seasons for the Pirates, including ranking among the NL’s best starters last year, but early in the offseason the assumption was that he’d either retire at age 37 or re-sign with Pittsburgh.

That changed a couple weeks ago, when it became clear that Burnett planned to continue pitching and was open to leaving the Pirates. Pittsburgh failed to make Burnett a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, so there’s no draft pick compensation. And if Hamels gets healthy the Phillies’ front three of Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Burnett is one of the very best in baseball. Last season that trio combined to throw 634 innings with a 3.25 ERA while each topping 200 strikeouts.

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.