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As Kershaw improves, Dodgers lean on bullpen

MLB.com

LOS ANGELES --- For the second straight day, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw felt well enough to play light catch five days after he was placed on the disabled list with a low back strain.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner played catch and stretched on the field with teammate Brandon McCarthy, who is also on the DL, before the Dodgers played the Giants on Saturday.

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LOS ANGELES --- For the second straight day, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw felt well enough to play light catch five days after he was placed on the disabled list with a low back strain.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner played catch and stretched on the field with teammate Brandon McCarthy, who is also on the DL, before the Dodgers played the Giants on Saturday.

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"Clayton says he felt good," manager Dave Roberts said. "They [the medical staff] gave him the green light to go play catch. He's going to continue to ramp up -- how aggressively I think that's going to be up to medical staff, but they've got keen eyes on him."

Roberts said he's not sure if Kershaw will travel with the Dodgers for their upcoming nine-game road trip, but said it would make "sense" if the lefty stayed in Los Angeles.

"For me, it's kind of being on an airplane, what's best for his back, how much he's going to get out of being on the road with us," Roberts said,

With Kershaw's absence, the Dodgers have relied on and put more trust in their bullpen, which entering Saturday led the National League in ERA (2.84) and was tops in the Majors in WHIP (1.06) and strikeout-to walk ratio (3.92). Brandon Morrow, whom the Dodgers signed to a Minor League deal in January, has been a pleasant surprise out of the bullpen.

The hard-throwing right-hander has been used in leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings and has been effective, especially against left-handed hitters. Lefties have had a tough time vs. Morrow, going 1-for-28 against the 32-year-old this season, which is first among qualified relief pitchers.

Morrow gives Roberts another righty who can throw heat, in addition to Pedro Baez, and leaves the Dodgers confident with what they have if the club can't acquire a lefty reliever before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Morrow has thrown 16 fastballs at 100-plus mph and has a 75.8 percent strike rate with runners in scoring position.

"If that's not in the cards and doesn't make sense for our ballclub to do something like that," Roberts said about picking up a left-handed reliever, "I feel very comfortable, very confident, that Pedro, Brandon Morrow, Josh Fields and Kenley [Jansen] can get out a left-handed hitter."

• After Saturday's 2-1 victory over the Giants, the Dodgers acquired left-handed pitcher Luis Ysla from Boston for cash considerations and moved Adrian Gonzalez (disk herniation) to the 60-day disabled list. Ysla, who will be optioned to Double-A Tulsa, was 1-5 with a 5.05 ERA at Double-A Portland this year.

Joshua Thornton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw, Brandon Morrow