Already the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching staff, heading into the 2014 season, all eyes were on Clayton Kershaw and his seven-year, $215 million contract extension. Signed to the new deal and coming off a Cy Young Award-winning season, expectations were high for Kershaw.
Kershaw struggled through Spring Training but was his usual dominant self in his first and only start of the regular season on March 22. With the Dodgers opening the season in Australia, it created a break in the schedule that didn’t have them playing their next regular season game until March 30. That meant Kershaw could pitch in Australia and again in the U.S. opener. Furthermore, Kershaw also could have then started the home opener on April 4.
During Spring Training, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seemed apprehensive in committing to use the leader of his staff in all three games, but the plan appeared to be in motion as Kershaw was scheduled to start in San Diego on March 30. He would eventually be scratched and landed on the disabled list with inflammation in his back. After a series of bullpen sessions and a simulated game on Sunday, Kershaw will throw another bullpen session on Tuesday and could be in line to complete a rehab assignment on Friday, according to Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com:
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday that will set him up to begin a Minor League rehab assignment Friday.
The Dodgers have steadily but cautiously increased the level of activity in Kershaw’s throwing program, and the left-hander has gotten through each workout without suffering any setbacks. While a rehab start would likely indicate Kershaw is close to returning, Gurnick reports more the Dodgers may ask him to complete more than one rehab assignment:
Even if Kershaw extends into the 70-pitch neighborhood in the minors on Friday, the club is likely to encourage him to make a second rehab start.
Without Kershaw, the Dodgers have relied on strong pitching from Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren to help propel them to the top of the NL West standings. Assuming Kershaw remains healthy once he returns, it may help shore up the backend of the rotation as Beckett would now become the No. 5 starter, replacing the struggling Paul Maholm.
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