The Los Angeles Dodgers faced a daunting reality when persistent back pain required Clayton Kershaw to be examined by Dr. Robert Watkins. The left-handed ace was received an epidural and diagnosed with a mild disc herniation.
Kershaw was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday, though it was retroactive to June 27. It marked just the second time in Kershaw’s career that injury forced him to the DL, and the Dodgers initially didn’t know much about a timeline for his recovery.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts appropriately said setting a timeline would be arbitrary as Kershaw would work to beat it.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman provided some clarity over the weekend, revealing Kershaw began a five-step rehabilitation program, set by Dr. Watkins, shortly after the cortisone injection in his back.
After Kershaw was seen playing catch with Brett Anderson prior to Wednesday’s game, Roberts confirmed it’s an activity Kershaw has been cleared for. “Clayton has started his rehab as far as exercising and he got clearance to play catch, which is exciting and encouraging for all of us,” Roberts said.
“So we have to keep a close eye on him, because he’s going to want to push it as much as he possibly can. This is a little early, we’re pleasantly surprised.”
Assuming there isn’t much of a layoff for the Dodgers’ ace, it’s plausible Kershaw will avoid rehab starts prior to being activated from the DL. Friedman previously noted a timeline for Kershaw’s return would become clear once he was able to advance to pitching.
Kershaw expressed frustration and disappointment with his DL stint and true to his stubborn and competitive personality, said he would push through the recovery best he could.
The state of the Dodgers’ rotation has improved since losing their three-time Cy Young Award winner, as Brandon McCarthy returned from Tommy John surgery, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to start Thursday in his first outing since undergoing shoulder surgery last May.
While it may still be unlikely, it’s possible Los Angeles gets through this stretch with their ace missing only two scheduled starts.