Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw throws bullpen session, getting closer to return

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw pitched off a mound on Friday afternoon for the first time since injuring his back on July 23. Sidelined with a lower back strain for the last three weeks, Kershaw indicated the session went “fine” after throwing about 35 pitches before a series opener against San Diego.

“It went better than fine for us,” manager Dave Roberts said. “For us to get out of it unscathed, to feel good about it, very good. He used his entire mix. Obviously with him, the execution piece, he always expects perfection out of himself, which is great.”

Kershaw is expected to throw another bullpen session within the next two to three days, Roberts said. From there, the team will evaluate whether he is ready to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment. Kershaw is likely to pitch in a live setting at least once before the team activates him from the disabled list.

Kershaw has said he hopes to make a handful of starts before the playoffs begin. That outcome appears possible.

GONZALEZ, ETHIER HEADED TO RANCHO

Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez, two veteran Dodgers recovering from herniated disks, will join class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday, Roberts said.

Gonzalez hit .308 with a home run and six RBIs in five games with triple-A Oklahoma City. He is expected to rejoin the Dodgers before Ethier, who has not played this season. Ethier is unlikely to be activated before rosters expand on Sept. 1.

DAYTON TESTS DELIVERY

Grant Dayton, who has been sidelined with neck issues several times this season, threw a bullpen session in front of a large audience Friday afternoon. Included in attendance were Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

Roberts sounded impressed with Dayton’s performance. Dayton has struggled to replicate the success he had in 2016, when he emerged as the team’s primary left-handed reliever in October.

Dayton has not pitched for the Dodgers since July 24. He was placed on the disabled list with neck stiffness soon after.

SHORT HOPS

The Dodgers activated reliever Luis Avilan from the paternity list before Friday’s game. Brock Stewart was optioned to Oklahoma City. Avilan missed the series in Arizona after the birth of his first child, a boy named Sebastian Andres. . . . Reliever Chris Hatcher, who has been sidelined by thoracic inflammation, was with the team Friday. Roberts indicated the Dodgers would consider activating Hatcher this weekend.

andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes

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