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Clayton Kershaw return date remains uncertain

PHOENIX -- A day after he threw a simulated game at Dodger Stadium, Clayton Kershaw's return to the rotation remains undecided, reducing the possibility that he could come back by Thursday's game at Washington.

Kershaw has not pitched since June 26 because of lower back injury that was diagnosed as a mild disk herniation. He is eligible to return from the disabled list, but the Dodgers are giving their staff ace more time to make sure he is 100 percent recovered.

The Dodgers want to see how Kershaw came out of his Saturday session before deciding their next move. Manager Dave Roberts did not say there was a setback of any kind, but he still does not have a concrete plan for Kershaw at this time.

"After that [the simulated game], we're just making sure he feels his body feels 100 percent ready to come back because when he does come back we want him to stay healthy," Roberts said. "That's why we're being extra cautious as we are with all of our players. A couple, two, three days to see how his body responds, and how he feels, will give us a lot more clarity. Right now, as we've been, we're reluctant to put any return date for Clayton. You have to defer to his health obviously."

It was Roberts who suggested last week that Kershaw could return on the road trip, which runs through a trip to St. Louis on July 24.

The Dodgers will have made one turn through the rotation to start the second half by the end of Wednesday's game at Washington. Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu will pitch in the first two games of that series. It left the possibility that Kershaw could pitch Thursday. The Dodgers have not scheduled a pitcher beyond Wednesday in their daily game notes.

Roberts said he had no qualms about pitching three left-handers in a single series, which would happen if Kershaw pitched Thursday. The manager also said he wasn't concerned about having Kershaw fly across the country to pitch after a back injury.

Yet the longer the Dodgers wait to make a decision, the more likely he could make his return next weekend at St. Louis. Roberts was even asked if the Dodgers might wait until their next homestand to get Kershaw back into the mix.

"I think that for Clayton, if he feels well and the doctors support it, then whether it's on the road or at home, that decision will be made," Roberts said. "I can't even speak to when that would be. We're trying to give it just a couple more days to see how he feels. I think that after the exertion, when things start to settle, his body will feel a certain way, whether he feels refreshed and not sore or he feels sore and we have to readjust."

If Kershaw does not pitch in Washington, Bud Norris is in line to pitch Thursday. The tentative rotation at St. Louis would be Brandon McCarthy on Friday, Kenta Maeda on Saturday and Kazmir on Sunday on Sunday Night Baseball, unless Kershaw takes one of those games.

Kershaw is 11-2 this season with a 1.79 ERA. The Dodgers have won 14 of his 16 starts this season.

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