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Clayton Kershaw throws on flat ground, says he feels 'healthy'

PHOENIX -- Clayton Kershaw threw aggressively off flat ground on Tuesday, but Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts says the Dodgers will take a cautious approach to their ace's return to the rotation.

Roberts said Kershaw "stretched out a little bit" with his throwing at Chase Field before Tuesday night's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks and will do the same on Wednesday.

"I think that a bullpen [session] in the next few days makes sense," Roberts said. "It will probably be when we get back home" for a weekend series against San Diego.

Kershaw has been sidelined with a back injury since July 23.

Roberts said there is no timetable for the left-hander's return and said the two have talked about Kershaw needing four or five starts to be ready for the postseason.

"He's close," Roberts said. "I think it just makes sense for us to be cautious. We just don't want to put ourselves in any situation where there's a setback. The calendar's on our side. I know that Clayton resists that. But I think as an organization it's best for him and best for all of us to err on the side of caution."

Kershaw told reporters Tuesday that he feels "healthy" and indicated he's looking ahead to building up his strength as the postseason approaches.

"I think now it's just a matter of building back up at a good pace and, obviously, understanding where we're at and the timeline and all that stuff," he said. "I don't feel like I've lost much. But, being a starter, you've gotta build your innings back and all that. So, it's gonna take a little bit of time to do that."

The Dodgers have been doing just fine without their ace, going 11-1 since Kershaw left early in his start against Atlanta. Overall, Los Angeles has won a phenomenal 44 of its past 51, the best 51-game stretch in the majors since the 1912 New York Giants.

The Dodgers' 79-32 record is the best in baseball and the best record in the National League through 111 games since the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals.

Their wide lead, along with the acquisition of Yu Darvish, gives the Dodgers the opportunity to take it easy with Kershaw's return. It's not known whether Kershaw would need a minor league rehab start.

"Once he gets on the mound and repeats that a couple of times," Roberts said, "then I think that Clayton will know more and the training staff will know more on how we want to progress."

Catcher Austin Barnes was kept out of batting practice and out of the lineup Tuesday after taking a foul ball off his throwing hand in Sunday's win over the New York Mets. X-rays were negative.

"He says he could swing a bat if needed but I think to take an extra day [off] would make sense," Roberts said.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal left Saturday's game against the Mets with back spasms but was in the Dodgers' lineup Tuesday night.

Roberts said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez probably will spend another two weeks in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City as he returns from a herniated disk.

The Dodgers placed left-handed reliever Luis Avilan on paternity leave and recalled Brock Stewart from Oklahoma City. Roberts said Avilan's wife and baby boy are doing fine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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