For the first time since June 26, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw pitched in an official game Saturday. He tossed three innings for the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in his first rehab start following a back injury.
Kershaw struck out five in his three innings and allowed only an infield single. He threw 34 pitches, so after exiting the game, he went down to the bullpen to throw some more and get his pitch count up to 50. Here’s what Kershaw told Jesse Dougherty of the Los Angeles Timesafterwards:
“It felt good. I was able to, you know, warm up and sit in between innings, stuff that’s kind of bothered me in the past,” Kershaw said. “It was definitely a good test, kind of pitch in a game-setting again, kind of have a normal game-type situation.”
Kershaw, who has been out with discomfort associated with a herniated disc in his back, told reporters he would pitch again in four or five days. Where that happens depends how he feels in the coming days. He said much of the pain came after starts when he would cool down.
The Dodgers are dealing with a ton of pitching injuries and are essentially piecing things together on a week-by-week basis. Top prospect Jose De Leon will make his MLB debut on Sunday and will be the 15th different starter used by the Dodgers in 2016, the most in baseball.
Los Angeles comes into Sunday with a two-game lead over the Giants in the NL West and a 5 1/2 game lead on a postseason spot in general. They can afford to be patient with Kershaw in September, and not rush him back and risk a setback. He’s already had one during the rehab process.
At the same time, the Dodgers want to get Kershaw into big league games sooner rather than later just to shake off the rust and prepare for the postseason. He’s obviously a huge part of their success, and they want to get him as many tune-up innings as possible.
My guess is Kershaw will make one more minor league rehab start, stretch his pitch count to 65-70 or so, then rejoin the Dodgers after that. Assuming his back feels fine, of course. That would allow Kershaw to make at least four MLB starts before the end of the regular season.
Source: CBS Sports / Clayton Kershaw aces first rehab start and could return to the Dodgers this week