Clayton Kershaw took the first significant step forward in his bid to rejoin the Dodgers’ pitching staff in September. What role he might return to, however, is an open question.
Kershaw threw off a mound in the visitor’s bullpen at Petco Park on Tuesday afternoon, his first time throwing off a mound since a three-inning simulated game on July 27 at Oracle Park in San Francisco. Kershaw threw approximately 45 pitches that day and experienced renewed discomfort in his left elbow in the days that followed. He was shut down for two weeks and only began throwing again a little over a week ago.
Tuesday’s bullpen session lasted only 20 pitches and did not include any breaking pitches. But Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw looked “really good” and “the delivery looked fluid.”
“I’m excited. I think we’re all excited,” Roberts said. “Clayton was excited to get off a mound, off the slope and feel good.
“Mark (Prior, Dodgers pitching coach) and the medical guys know more than I do as far as the progression. But I would say in a few days he’ll get off the mound again and spin some balls. As we can start using his entire mix, getting up to that 32 pitches which is his normal bullpen session with 100 percent effort, we’ll start kind of getting closer. But today was a big step for all of us.”
Kershaw has not pitched in a game since going four innings on July 3 in Washington. With just 40 days left in the regular season, it’s questionable whether the three-time Cy Young Award winner will be able to go through the progression from bullpen sessions to facing hitters to pitching in games quickly enough to build his arm strength and pitch count up to a starter’s workload before the end of the season. If not, Kershaw could pitch in a multi-inning relief role or as a limited starter.
“I don’t know to what extent,” Roberts said. “I think we still have time on the schedule. But I don’t want to put the staff or Clayton in a box. I just think each day let’s improve, let’s get stronger, let’s build up the arm. And where that gets us, whenever that takes place, we’ll just see what role makes the most sense.
“I do know that Clayton first and foremost wants to be healthy and he’s open to whatever will help the team at that point.”
Kershaw was moved to the 60-day injured list and will not be eligible to be activated until early September.
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