As the Los Angeles Dodgers near the second month of their regular season schedule, a significant amount of focus remains on Clayton Kershaw and his recovery from inflammation in his back. Kershaw pitched in the first game of the Opening Series in Australia and failed to make another start after. The Dodgers ace was scratched from his next scheduled start before the team then decided to place him on the DL.
Kershaw has slowly been working his way back, advancing from throwing on flat ground to completing bullpen sessions with the intensity being increased as he’s progressed. According to ESPN LA’s Anthony Witrado, the next step for Kershaw is facing hitters:
Kershaw will throw to hitters Sunday for the first time since he pitched the season opener March 22 in Australia.
A return date still hasn’t been set for Kershaw and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly acknowledged the progress the left-hander has made, but implied and wait and see approach is in effect, via Witrado:
It continues to go in the right direction,” manager Don Mattingly said before Saturday’s game. “We’ll see how it goes. It’ll be limited with what he’s doing with the hitters.
With Kershaw unavailable, the Dodgers have had to rely on both Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm to fill out the rotation. Presumably, once Kershaw returns, one of those two pitchers will be placed in the bullpen. The timing of the injury is months after Kershaw signed a seven-year, $215 million contract in January. Kershaw struggled through Spring Training but appeared to remedy any issues that plagued him as he resembled his usual self in his lone start this season.
The left-hander’s value to the Dodgers can’t be understated, which may be the reason for the cautious approach in working him back. As much as Kershaw would be welcomed back in the coming weeks, his presence would be needed most down the stretch of the season and into postseason play.
Dodgers News: A.J. Ellis Out, Knee Surgery, Clayton Kershaw Improving