SAN DIEGO -- The last time Clayton Kershaw threw off the mound, the left-hander completed three innings in a simulated game on July 27 in San Francisco. Just after that, Kershaw was shut down for the second time since going on the injured list because his left forearm wasn’t responding as well as he hoped.
On Tuesday, Kershaw was back on a mound for the first time in a month. He threw a 20-pitch bullpen session at Petco Park, the first step in what the Dodgers hope is a smooth rehab process for the future Hall of Famer.
“It was really good,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think we’re all excited. Clayton was excited to get off the mound and feel good.”
The next step for Kershaw will be how his arm responds on Wednesday. During his first attempt at a return, Kershaw felt good during the simulated game but the soreness wouldn’t completely go away. If Kershaw feels good, he’ll play catch on Wednesday and the Dodgers will then plan when he’ll throw his next bullpen session.
Roberts said that the next progression for Kershaw will be to eventually get him to throw his full mix of pitches during a bullpen session, as it was just fastballs on Tuesday. Once that happens, the next progression will be to have him throw a 32-pitch bullpen, which is his normal workload.
Because there are still a lot of steps in the rehab process, Roberts said he didn’t want to put a timetable on Kershaw’s return. Kershaw said he rushed his way back the first time, which, in his opinion, is what caused the setback. He isn’t eligible to return from the 60-day IL until Sept. 5.
“As we can start using his entire mix, getting up to that 32-pitch mark, which is his normal bullpen session with 100 percent effort, we’ll start to kind of get closer," said Roberts. "But today was a big step for all of us.”
One thing Roberts and the Dodgers aren’t ready to announce is what role Kershaw will jump into once he’s healthy enough to return. In a perfect world, Kershaw slots back into the starting rotation, but this late into the season, the calendar starts to become an enemy. Kershaw still needs to clear a pair of hurdles in the rehab process before the Dodgers even think about building him up.
Kershaw could certainly exceed his rehab and build up as a starter at the big league level. Or, the Dodgers could have him start games and only go a pair of innings. Coming out of the bullpen isn’t out of the question, though that would require a lengthy conversation.
“I think we still have time on the schedule, but I don’t want to put the staff or Clayton in any box,” Roberts said. “I think for us, each day, let’s improve, let’s get stronger, let’s build the arm and where that gets us, whenever that takes place, we’ll just kind of see what role makes the most sense.”
Roberts says Kershaw is willing to do anything to help the team and is just eager to get back on the mound. Tuesday was a positive first step on what the Dodgers hope is a smooth progression.