4:47pm: Kershaw has been diagnosed with a “mild disc herniation” in his back, the team announced. He is not expected to require surgery, per the announcement, but his recovery timeline remains unclear.
11:23am: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw received an epidural injection to treat his ailing lower back yesterday and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list, manager Dave Roberts told reporters, including Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times (Twitter link). He adds that the team is hopeful that Kershaw will be ready to be activated following the All-Star break, though MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick tweets that Roberts said he’s uncertain if Kershaw would be ready after the minimum 15 days. There hasn’t been a decision made regarding the starter for Friday’s game, when Kershaw was scheduled to take the hill.
[Related: Updated Los Angeles Dodgers depth chart]
For the Dodgers, Kershaw is the latest in a deluge of injuries that have contributed to the team’s second-place positioning behind the division-leading Giants. Kershaw will join fellow starters Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu and Alex Wood on the disabled list. On the position-player side of the equation, the Dodgers are currently without Andre Ethier and Enrique Hernandez, and there’s a possibility of Joc Pederson landing on the DL as well following a collision with the outfield wall on Monday night that has left his shoulder with extremely limited mobility.
Kershaw is in the midst of a historic season, having worked to a 1.79 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 0.7 BB/9 and a 49.8 percent ground-ball rate through an MLB-best 121 innings thus far. He’s on pace to shatter Phil Hughes’ MLB record for strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.63), having posted an otherworldly 16.1 K/BB ratio to this point. Kershaw appeared to be a lock to start the 2016 All-Star Game in San Diego, but this injury obviously takes that honor off the table.
From a broader perspective, the injury to Kershaw merely underscores the Dodgers’ need for pitching help. Without Kershaw atop the starting five, Los Angeles is looking at a rotation consisting of Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Brock Stewart and a yet-undetermined fifth starter. (Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias stand out as possible internal options.) That group will be thinned even further following the All-Star break, as the expectation is that Urias will be shut down for a time in order to avoid a significant increase from last year’s limited 80 1/3 inning workload.
The Dodgers have already seemed like a probably candidate to pursue rotation upgrades on the trade market, with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports connecting them just yesterday to Rays right-hander Erasmo Ramirez. A three-start absence for Kershaw (the best-case scenario) doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dodgers need to target an ace-caliber pitcher to insert into the top of their rotation, but it could certainly hasten the front office’s efforts to add a reliable option for the back end of the starting mix.