Aroldis Chapman cleared to throw live batting practice

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Aroldis Chapman’s recovery from facial fractures has progressed to the point that the Reds left-hander has been cleared to throw live batting practice, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

His expected return date has always been pegged as mid-May, but it’s possible Chapman might be somewhat ahead of that schedule one day short of a month since he was hit by a line drive. Either way, it’s good news.

Chapman threw a 25-pitch bullpen session earlier this week, but obviously given the nature of his injury actually facing live hitters is potentially a very big hurdle to clear next. Cincinnati’s bullpen has struggled in his absence, posting a 5.18 ERA that ranks second worst in the league ahead of only Philadelphia.

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.