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.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.