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Clayton Kershaw
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Spring Training Daily

ST Daily: Kershaw Drama

by Nathan Grimm
Updated On: February 25, 2019, 1:19 am ET

Shoulder inflammation.

 

All that for some shoulder inflammation.

 

Sirens were sounded late last week when news got around that Clayton Kershaw had been shut down after a "discouraging" bullpen session, but the news on Sunday was more encouraging when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said soreness in his left shoulder was the cause of Kershaw's troubles. Kershaw reportedly responded well to the few days off and will play catch on Monday.

“It’s better now than later,” Roberts said. “So we have plenty of time to address this, reset, and see where it takes us. But we’re hopeful. ... Just talking with Clayton and the training staff, there’s no cause for concern.”

 

That doesn't mean that the southpaw is out of the woods yet, but the secrecy surrounding the ailment in the days immediately following the troubling bullpen session led some to fear he had a recurrence of the back issues that have plagued him in recent years, or some other more worrisome development. The left shoulder isn't an ideal place for an injury, but some inflammation -- possibly caused, according to Roberts, by trying to throw too hard in hopes of reclaiming some lost velocity -- is on the low end of the concern spectrum.

 

One thing of interest will be to see how the past week affects Kershaw's draft stock, which was already deflated after a 2018 season in which he posted a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts. Even if Kershaw still makes his Opening Day start as Roberts expects, the negative media piled on top of the already bruised perception could lower the 30-year-old's draft-day cost even more. His current NFBC ADP of 37 ranks him 13th among pitchers, behind teammate Walker Buehler, among others.

 

For their part, Roberts and Kershaw aren't among those panicking.

 

“He’s in a good place,” Roberts said. “He feels good. And I think that he understands that it’s a process and we’re all on the same page where we don’t want to rush it back. If we’re going to take a few days to take a step back, let’s take advantage of it.”

 

Kang Announces Presence in Third Base Race

 

Jung Ho Kang has missed plenty of time the past two years.

 

He started trying to make up for it Sunday.

 

The Pirates third baseman, who has been limited to three games since the end of the 2016 season due to off-field legal issues, blasted a pair of solo homers in his Grapefruit League debut Sunday. His first came off Marlins starter Trevor Richards in the second inning, and he hit his second off Hector Noesi in the fourth.

 

“I prepared well during the wintertime,” Kang said after the game. “That actually helped a lot to keep a good feeling and good shape and strength and everything.”

 

Clearly.

 

It's an uphill battle for Kang this spring, as the past two years have seen a lot change in Pittsburgh in his (mostly) absence. The trade of Gerrit Cole before the 2018 season brought third baseman Colin Moran to hold down the hot corner, and Ke'Bryan Hayes -- who also homered twice Sunday, including a walk-off grand slam -- has risen quickly through the ranks to be recognized as a top-100 prospect in the game.

 

Kang has always possessed serious offensive chops, though -- he hit 21 homers in 103 games in 2016 -- and a strong spring could force the Pirates' hand. If he does hit his way into regular playing time, Kang could become a mixed-league relevant corner infielder with his power.

 

Harper Sweepstakes Drawing To A Close?

 

The Bryce Harper-to-the-Phillies smoke is still just that, but there's been no shortage of said smoke in recent days.

 

Phillies owner John Middleton flew out to Las Vegas on Saturday to meet with Harper's team, and the negotiations dragged on into the night -- perhaps even including Middleton's plane leaving without him. (Or maybe not; #sources ran wild Saturday.) At one point, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted there was "optimism" that a 10-year deal would be finalized "by Monday afternoon."

 

Other reports from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman suggested there were multiple teams still involved, though. The Giants are believed to be interested, and the Padres were floated as a possible suitor even in the wake of the Manny Machado signing.

 

Monday is now upon us, and with the calendar turning to March this week, it would seem we'll know something sooner than later. Then again, we've said that before.

 

Quick Hits: Luke Voit went 2-for-3 with a three-run home run and four RBI in Sunday's Grapefruit League win over the Rays. Voit knocked in Tyler Wade with an RBI single in the first inning before launching a three-run dinger in the fourth. For those who saw Voit as a member of the Yanks last summer this is nothing new, as he mashed 14 home runs with a .333/.405/.689 batting line in 39 regular season games following a July trade from the Cardinals. Whether that's an even remotely sustainable pace is a question on the minds of lots of forecasters and fantasy players this spring, but if given the chance, we're confident the 28-year-old can do some serious damage in Yankee Stadium again in 2019 ... Matt Chapman (thumb, shoulder) could make his Cactus League debut as soon as Tuesday. Chapman is being slow-played this spring following offseason thumb and shoulder surgeries, but he's coming along well and isn't far behind. Barring a setback, he'll be ready to roll by the time Opening Day comes around ... Brandon Nimmo (shoulder) is slated to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday in the designated hitter spot. Nimmo is still a bit limited from a throwing perspective as he works his way back from some right shoulder soreness, but he's participating in all other activities without issue. It's unclear when he will be cleared to play the outfield in games, but it doesn't sound like it will be long ... Hernan Perez racked up seven RBI in the Brewers' Cactus League rout of the Rangers on Sunday. Perez slugged a three-run homer off Rangers left-hander Yohander Mendez in the top of the first inning and then laced a bases-clearing three-run double off right-hander Zach McAllister in the top of the third. Perez, 27, is poised to serve as a super-utilityman this season in Milwaukee and doesn't carry much draft-day appeal in that role, though an injury somewhere on the Brewers' depth chart could quickly change his fantasy outlook ... Max Kepler homered twice in a Grapefruit League loss to the Red Sox on Sunday. Kepler hit a pair of solo blasts in the game, the first off Sox starter Ryan Weber and then again in the second inning against someone named Dedgar Jimenez. Name value of the opposing pitchers aside, it's a good start to the spring for the 26-year-old Kepler, of whom big things are expected by many this year ... Madison Bumgarner was charged with six earned runs over one-plus innings in his Cactus League debut Sunday versus the Cubs. Bumgarner pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, but he gave up five hits and struck David Bote near the helmet with a pitch before getting lifted with no outs in the top of the second. It's far too early in the spring to freak out about stat lines, but Bumgarner is under the microscope in Giants camp as he enters his final year under team control. The 29-year-old ace is San Francisco's biggest trade chip ... Yadier Molina (knee) caught a bullpen session on Sunday. It's the first one he's caught this spring as he eases back into things following a cleanup surgery on his left knee in December. Molina isn't expected to catch in Grapefruit League games until mid-March but is fully expected to be ready to go by the time Opening Day rolls around ... The Red Sox are targeting March 6 for Dustin Pedroia's (knee) Grapefruit League debut. It's a very tentative date at this point. Pedroia has been eased into things this spring after he missed virtually all of last season following multiple setbacks with his surgically-repaired left knee. Obviously, the 35-year-old is a major health question mark at this point, but the Red Sox are hopeful that he will be ready to play second base on Opening Day.