Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw threw around 70 pitches in a simulated game yesterday, and feels ready to make his return from the 15-day injured list. Lower back pain forced Kershaw to the IL on August 5, and the Dodgers took a cautious road to recovery with their veteran ace.
“The situation we’re in, this is more kind of a roster decision more than anything,” Kershaw told reporters, including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. “I’ve felt pretty good for a while now. We took it slow, did two sim games and now ready to go. Sometimes you can’t decide when you get to pitch. They tell you.”
However, Kershaw now seems on track for a slightly earlier return than expected, considering the initial plan was to activate him from the IL around the second week of September. Now, Kershaw is likely to pitch on either Thursday (against the Mets in New York) or on Friday when the Dodgers open a homestand by facing the Padres.
There is plenty of reason for the Dodgers to take a measured approach to Kershaw’s return, given his checkered health history — that history includes another IL stint earlier this season, when Kershaw missed a little over a month this season due to hip inflammation. While the Dodgers would certainly be careful with Kershaw under any circumstances, the team’s runaway lead in the NL West does allow some extra luxury when it comes to managing workloads and keeping players healthy for the postseason.
To that end, manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya) today that Los Angeles will use a six-man rotation for “a couple weeks at the bare minimum” once Kershaw is activated. This will allow Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Tyler Anderson a bit of extra rest between starts, and since Dustin May and Andrew Heaney are both back from lengthy injury absences themselves, they’ll get to stay in the rotation and stay stretched out, rather than be relegated to bullpen work.
Now in his 15th MLB season, Kershaw is still a top-tier starter when healthy, posting a 2.64 ERA, 26.2% strikeout rate, and 4.5% walk rate over 85 1/3 innings. The left-hander’s first-half performance earned Kershaw an All-Star nod for the ninth time in his outstanding career.