MILWAUKEE -- Clayton Kershaw will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with lower back pain, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts couldn't say he was optimistic that his ace will return in the minimum time.
Kershaw received an epidural injection for pain relief, and following an MRI on Thursday, the 28-year-old was diagnosed with a mild disc herniation that won't require surgery. The recovery time is not yet known.
All back injuries are different, but teammate Scott Van Slyke missed nearly two months with a lower back injury and said he needed one month after receiving an epidural injection before he felt 100 percent.
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Roberts was asked the chances that Kershaw, with a four-day All-Star break included, would return after 15 days. The longer he is unable to throw, the longer it will take to rebuild arm strength needed to pitch deep into games.
"I can say [the chances of only 15 days are] great, but I think how his body responds to the epidural is the most telling," Roberts said before Thursday's game against the Brewers. "I don't know how it's going to be. I'm hopeful, but I can't say either way. In the coming days, we'll know how he responds to that and that will give us more direction."
Roberts said Kershaw, who's been on the DL only one other time in his Major League career, did not resist the decision to put himself on the shelf, and suggested that was a sign of how much pain Kershaw has been dealing with.
"It's where he's at and what he was going through," Roberts said. "He understands this is the best course of action. He's very regimented, such a tough guy. Then for him to see the docs and get the scan done, that takes a lot for him. Obviously, he was going through stuff we can't relate to about the pain he was dealing with. He'll be back as soon as he can. This just shows his will, undeniable will, to be great. I can't imagine how he would have pitched if he was pain-free."
Kershaw, a former National League MVP and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, is 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA, which included a four-run second inning on Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The loss snapped a nine-game win streak.
Kershaw had been receiving treatment for the condition for two weeks, but he reported more discomfort Monday after losing to the Pirates, 4-3. He flew home on Wednesday, and he was seen by back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins.
Kershaw was scheduled to start on Friday, but the Dodgers acquired right-hander Bud Norris, Minor League outfielder Dian Toscano, a player to be named and cash considerations from the Braves for Minor League pitchers Caleb Dirks and Philip Pfeifer on Thursday, and Norris will start against Colorado.
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Regardless of the length of Kershaw's absence, the injury is another in an epidemic of ailments for Dodgers starting pitchers this year.
Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are still trying to come back from last year's surgeries. Brett Anderson had back surgery in the spring, Alex Wood has been out a month with a left elbow injury, Frankie Montas has had two broken ribs and Mike Bolsinger an oblique strain.
"Injuries happen to every team," said Roberts. "We've been bit by the injury bug. It's a big blow, but we've got to keep moving forward and hold down the fort until he gets back. He's been our MVP. To lose a player to the DL like Clayton, the guy we've counted on every fifth day to start, obviously it's out of all of our control. I know he's very disappointed. It's up to us to pick him up."
One reason Kershaw has been as consistently dominant for as long as he has is his durability. He has officially been on the DL only once, for six weeks after straining the teres major muscle in his upper back in the 2014 season opener in Sydney, Australia. He was scratched from a '12 start and again with a minor right hip impingement in '15. He also suffered a separated right (non-throwing) shoulder running into the wall while shagging fly balls during batting practice in September 2009, missing three weeks but not going on the DL.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Fantasy owners will be upset to lose Kershaw for any stretch of time, as the elite lefty has already logged 11 victories to go along with stellar rate stats and a strong strikeout total. Still, they can likely overcome his absence -- especially given the advantages they've already enjoyed in the wins, K's (145), ERA (1.79) and WHIP (0.73) categories. Some owners may try to replace quality with quantity by scooping up a two-start hurler for next week, with Jake Peavy, A.J. Griffin and Junior Guerra serving as potential waiver-wire options. Those interested in protecting their ratios may instead pick up one Week 14 start from a Danny Duffy, a Bartolo Colon or a Daniel Mengden.