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DENVER — Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw took a big step toward a return by throwing two solid innings during a simulated game Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner has been sidelined with a minor disk herniation in his lower back since late June.

Of course, Kershaw critiqued his performance afterward, telling team officials he wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be. Just Kershaw being Kershaw.

And yet another positive sign.

“He felt great after, which is obviously everything we cared about,” Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, said before a game against Colorado. “It was a great step in his progression.”

Before deciding on Kershaw’s next step, the team wants to see how he’s feeling Wednesday, but he’s raring to get back to the majors and help the NL West-leading Dodgers. This is only his second trip to the disabled list in his nine-year career. He also went on the DL in early 2014 with a shoulder strain.

“My guess is that Kersh will want to pitch in a major-league game tomorrow,” Friedman said. “And I think with the time he’s missed, my guess could be the next step, a minor-league assignment. I think it will take a little bit of time to build him up in a way for him to be strong through September and hopefully October, as well.”

Clayton Kershaw hasn't pitched in the big leagues since June 26.​Clayton Kershaw hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since June 26. USATSI

Asked how much input Kershaw will have in his next step, Friedman responded, “A lot.”

“But you also have to balance that with, he’s as competitive of a person as I’ve been around,” Friedman added. “He wants to get out here and help his team in the worst way. We’ll have to balance the medical opinion with how he’s doing and feeling. Getting him as back as quickly as we can, but in the most responsible way possible.”

Kershaw wasn’t the only injured Dodgers pitcher to work in a simulated game that featured a mix of minor-league hitters. Righty Brandon McCarthy (right hip stiffness) went five innings, using his whole array of pitches; lefty Brett Anderson (blister on his left index finger) turned in four and lefty Scott Kazmir (neck inflammation) threw five.

“It was a full day at Dodger Stadium,” manager Dave Roberts said. “All of the guys came out of it pretty well.”

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Source: CBS Sports / Clayton Kershaw moves closer to return after solid simulated game at Dodger Stadium