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 Times afterwards:
"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, though he needed to see how he felt before the team made a decision about where he would make that start. Kershaw said much of the pain came after starts when he would cool down.
Well, Kershaw's back must be felling pretty good, because on Saturday manager Dave Roberts confirmed Kershaw will rejoin the rotation on Friday.
Kershaw, on Friday start: "It's probably not going to be the full game first time out. I'm not okay with it but I understand the situation."— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) September 4, 2016
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. Kershaw's return will be very welcome.
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 had the luxury to remain patient with Kershaw this month and not rush him back, risking 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.
I originally expected Kershaw to make one more minor league rehab start, stretch his pitch count to 65-70 or so, then rejoin the Dodgers after that. That's not the case though. His back is feeling good and the Dodgers want him back in their rotation, understandably. Starting Friday will allow Kershaw to make five regular season starts before the postseason.