Dave Roberts calls staff ace Clayton Kershaw playing catch 'significant'

ByDoug Padilla ESPN logo
Monday, August 8, 2016

LOS ANGELES - TheLos Angeles Dodgers' hopes of having Clayton Kershaw for the stretch drive were buoyed Sunday when the staff ace played catch at Dodger Stadium.

It was the first time Kershaw participated in a baseball-related activity, outside of rehab for his lower back injury, since pitching in a simulated game on July 16 against minor league hitters. Kershaw came away from that outing with continued back discomfort that originally surfaced June 26 following a start at Pittsburgh.

"It's significant that he played catch," manager Dave Roberts said. "We're all excited about it. And when Clayton is ready he'll be back. But the guys that are active, we're focused on the guys we have active. And when Clayton comes back, we're going to be that much better for it."

While no target date was given for a potential Kershaw return, it did not sound like the left-hander would be back until around mid-September at the earliest. Roberts mentioned that instead of minor league rehab starts, Kershaw would throw in bullpens and live batting practice sessions to get back into game shape.

That preparation route would be needed because Triple-A Oklahoma City, Double-A Tulsa and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga all end their regular seasons on Sept. 5.

Kershaw threw from about 60-65 feet in the outfield in left. He worked mostly out of the stretch at a deliberate pitch and was throwing about 70 percent of full velocity.

"[The next step] will be just a little further out," Roberts said. "Just continue to get his intensity up and stretch him out a little more. Like I've said all along, Clayton is not a guy we worry about in regard to the intensity, the intent to get back. He'll be back as soon as he possibly can."

Kershaw was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA in 16 starts this season. He had 145 strikeouts, a number that still leads the Dodgers, even though he hasn't pitched in five weeks. He had just nine walks in 121 innings.

Even after the original injury, the setback and the dwindling timetable, Roberts has never lost hope that Kershaw would pitch again this season.

"Yeah, you know what, I think all along we have expected, and a little is being hopeful, but we expect him to make starts for us in September," Roberts said.