Clayton Kershaw is back tonight

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After missing all of the 2014 season to date except that early start in Australia has been tough on Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, but he’ll make his return tonight against the Washington Nationals.

Kershaw struck out nine batters over five innings in a minor-league rehab start last last week, his teres major muscle appearing to be in OK shape. In his absence, the Dodgders’ bullpen has had to work harder than any team’s pen in the National League, so his return is most welcome.

My feeling: this little stint on the DL may actually be a blessing in disguise for Kershaw and the Dodgers. Come September and, playoff gods willing, October, Kershaw will have far fewer innings on that arm and may be able to pitch deeper into games than he would if he had been going full-tilt since the start of the season.

Orioles “have begun fielding calls of interest” on Manny Machado

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports Thursday that the Orioles “are said to have begun fielding calls of interest” on superstar Manny Machado and “are close to the point of seriously weighing whether to trade him.”

You’d think it would be a no-brainer for the last-place O’s to flip Machado — an impending free agent — for prospects, but Heyman notes there is “still a question whether or not longtime Orioles owner Peter Angelos” will give the go-ahead. One person familiar with the situation put it a “50-50” likelihood. Another suggested that it would take a massive return, which, sure.

Machado entered play Thursday with a sensational .328/.405/.635 batting line, 15 home runs, and an MLB-leading 43 RBI in 49 games. It’d be a real shock if he’s still wearing an O’s uniform by the end of July.

Heyman reported previously that at least nine teams made aggressive plays for Machado this winter, including the Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Indians, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Cardinals. A whole lot of those teams still make sense here in late May — maybe all of them except the White Sox.