Clayton Kershaw did not shed much light on his recovery from a herniated disk in his lower back Tuesday, offering few details about his setback after a July 16 simulated game or any timetable for his return.
While the Dodgers ace said his goal is "to make it back to have an impact on this season for our team," he deflected a question about whether he had any fear or concern that he would not be able pitch again this season.
"As of today, I did all my core work and knocked it out," Kershaw said before the game against Tampa Bay. "Today, I made it, so it's on to tomorrow."
Kershaw, who last pitched June 26, seemed on the verge of an early return before his back flared up after his four-inning simulated game.
"I just knew something was not right — I definitely felt it where I shouldn't have felt it," said Kershaw, who is 11-2 with a 1.79 earned-run average in 16 starts. "I had crossed a lot of hurdles and did a lot of things I needed to do to get back. Pitching is definitely what caused the setback."
Kershaw has not been cleared by doctors to resume throwing. After his initial injury, the left-hander received an epidural injection June 29, started throwing July 6 and threw off a bullpen mound July 10. But when he ramped up his intensity during the simulated game, the pain returned.
"There is a lot of gray area — it's the best way to say it," Kershaw said of the rehabilitation process. "You have to go based on your symptoms. I didn't have any pain leading to when I pitched, and now I have to wait until I feel no pain again."
Manager Dave Roberts said last week that Kershaw's setback was "an indication that surgery is more of a possibility."
Asked if he wanted to "set the record straight" regarding Roberts' comments, Kershaw said, "I don't really know how to answer that. I don't think there is a record to be set straight."
Andre Ethier, who hasn't played since suffering a fractured tibia after fouling a ball off his right shin in March, took batting practice on the field against a pitcher for the first time since spring training Tuesday. But the outfielder didn't necessarily deem it a significant step in his lengthy recovery process.
"It's just another step," said Ethier, who had a shin-guard-like protective pad custom made for his shin. "We're trying to take leaps right now because we know what the timetable is. If we can take big leaps and stay strong through them, that's the right direction to be going."
Ethier is running at about 50% speed for 90-feet intervals and has not yet run the bases. He seems weeks away from a possible return, but he hasn't given up on playing this season.
"That's the plan," Ethier said. "That's why I'm still working, why I come here every day and do my stuff. I'm trying to keep that mental edge and focus to know that I'm coming back and playing and not just washing my hands of the year and saying I'll get them next year."
Yasiel Puig, slowed by a right-hamstring injury, was not in the lineup for a fifth straight game Tuesday night, but Roberts said the outfielder looked better running before the game and was available to pinch-hit.
With the Dodgers temporarily employing a four-man rotation, the bullpen rested after an off day and five players on the bench, "it's not a make or break right now," Roberts said of the decision on whether to put Puig on the disabled list.