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LA keeps Kershaw available for potential G4 start

Ace throws 'pen session, could step in for Urias on short rest if Dodgers trail in NLDS
MLB.com @kengurnick

WASHINGTON -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw an abbreviated bullpen session Sunday morning at Nationals Park that would allow him to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on short rest.

The Dodgers have announced 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias as the probable starter for the game, but they would likely switch to Kershaw if they trail the best-of-five series, 2-1, and face elimination. They lost Game 2 to the Nats, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon to even the series at one game apiece. 

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WASHINGTON -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw an abbreviated bullpen session Sunday morning at Nationals Park that would allow him to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on short rest.

The Dodgers have announced 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias as the probable starter for the game, but they would likely switch to Kershaw if they trail the best-of-five series, 2-1, and face elimination. They lost Game 2 to the Nats, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon to even the series at one game apiece. 

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Kershaw would be pitching on three days' rest on Tuesday, or on five days' rest for a Game 5 in Washington, if needed.

If the club had ruled out Kershaw from a Game 4 start and pointed him exclusively toward Game 5, his bullpen session would have been on Monday, as it customarily is done three days before the next start.

:: NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals coverage ::

The session lasted 25 pitches, about a third fewer than Kershaw's normal bullpen session, and catcher Carlos Ruiz said Kershaw's slider, which he struggled with despite winning Game 1, was sharp.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said there wasn't a particular emphasis on the slider during the session, but he acknowledged that Kershaw "saved some" pitches in case he is called on for a Tuesday start. He said Kershaw could throw a shorter second bullpen session on Tuesday if he knows he won't pitch until Thursday.

"He wants to be ready," said Honeycutt. "The good thing is, he seems fine physically. He hasn't said anything physically."

Honeycutt was referring to the back issue that sidelined Kershaw for 2 1/2 months and left in doubt his ability to return on short rest even if the club wanted him to.

Kershaw has pitched on short rest in the postseason once each of the last three seasons, going 1-1 with a no-decision and a 2.84 ERA.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw