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Rusty Kershaw eased back with 3-inning start

Ace strikes out 5 in return from DL
MLB.com @kengurnick

MIAMI -- Clayton Kershaw and Dave Roberts talked as if they had watched different games on Friday night, when the Dodgers' ace returned from the disabled list but took a 4-1 loss to the Marlins.

"I think every win is important, but for Clayton to be back on the mound, that's a win for us," the manager said after Kershaw's first start in 75 days. "We didn't expect him to be in midseason form. A little bit, you've got to take the long view. This was a win for him and for us. I don't want to read too much into this start. I think it's positive."

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MIAMI -- Clayton Kershaw and Dave Roberts talked as if they had watched different games on Friday night, when the Dodgers' ace returned from the disabled list but took a 4-1 loss to the Marlins.

"I think every win is important, but for Clayton to be back on the mound, that's a win for us," the manager said after Kershaw's first start in 75 days. "We didn't expect him to be in midseason form. A little bit, you've got to take the long view. This was a win for him and for us. I don't want to read too much into this start. I think it's positive."

Full Game Coverage

After missing 2 1/2 months with a herniated disk in his back, Kershaw (11-3) was pleased that he felt healthy afterward, although he also seemed embarrassed to come out after only three innings and 66 pitches (46 strikes), having allowed two runs with five strikeouts, no walks and a home run to J.T. Realmuto on his sixth pitch.

"Not great, obviously," Kershaw said. "I threw a lot of pitches, averaging 20-plus an inning. Regardless of the pitch count, it would have been a short night. I got to pitch, that's always fun, but I don't want to be a detriment to the team. Physically, fine, no complaints. Sleep on it and make sure I come back tomorrow, but I'm not too worried about it right now."

Video: LAD@MIA: Realmuto lines a home run to left field

For that, Dodger Nation can breathe at least a partial sigh of relief. There was rust to be sure -- and expected, especially on breaking balls, although Kershaw would have had to have been in Cy Young form just to keep up with opposing Marlins starter Jose Fernandez, who struck out 14 in seven overpowering and scoreless innings.

Roberts even called this the equivalent of a second rehab start for Kershaw, who had only one rehab start, lasting three innings last week at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga before being tossed back into the division race. This was his shortest start since allowing seven runs in 1 2/3 innings at Arizona a few weeks after returning from his only other stint on the disabled list in 2014.

Can Kershaw -- beaten twice by Miami this year -- get to postseason form by the postseason? Are the rustiness issues fixable?

"They better be. I think so," Kershaw said. "I was throwing strikes, they just weren't quality strikes. I wasn't able to finish off at-bats quickly. They had long at-bats, give them credit. More than anything, I wasn't able to throw quality strikes consistently. A lot of people can throw strikes. That's the reason you walk guys and pitch carefully, nibbling on the edges, but I was in the middle of the plate a lot."

The Dodgers and Kershaw hammered out a plan of one Minor League rehab start and four Major League starts with a goal of being ready for October. That made Friday night's game essentially a second rehab start disguised as a game that counted. It put the club, and Kershaw, in a tough spot, although Roberts spun that positively.

"He's as human as we all are," Roberts said. "We're in a good spot. If he'd been three or four scoreless and six punches, that's great. We've still got to look a little deeper than the numbers."

There were a few instances of concern.

In his only plate appearance, Kershaw dropped a sacrifice bunt but uncharacteristically jogged to first. He was nimble enough to get his head out of the way of a line-drive single through the box by Fernandez, nearly doing a split. But he appeared tentative coming off the mound for a pair of swinging bunts, one he fielded only to throw off-balance and wide to first base.

Video: LAD@MIA: Fernandez mashes a single by Kershaw

What did Roberts think about that last one?

"We all held our breath," Roberts said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw