Clayton Kershaw is in a strange and foreign place. One he had not planned to visit, even as late as Saturday afternoon.
But there he was, headed to the disabled list for the first time in his career, ratcheting up the concern level regarding that sore upper back.
"I can't pitch right now, so I'm going to have to take a few extra days. It's frustrating," Kershaw said. "I've been hurt before, but I kind of knew when I'd be able to pitch.
"Right now it's just not getting better fast enough. I really don't know [what caused Saturday's setback], other than I tried to throw harder today and felt it. So I'm going to have to take a step back a little bit."
Kershaw told the Dodgers about the soreness during their workout Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, their first since returning from their two games in Australia. He was scratched from Sunday's start in San Diego.
Kershaw has had foot and hip issues in the past, but neither sent him to the DL. This injury might not have either if the Dodgers did not have four off days scattered among their next nine games.
But the fact that the back is still bothering him has to cause some anxiety, or at least concern, that the soreness could be more persistent than originally believed.
"I guess it is a little more nagging than I thought, just because I felt it when I was playing catch today," Kershaw said. "I think it's just one of those things that if it doesn't hurt you push it, and if it does hurt you gotta stop. That's not always easy for me to do, but I'm trying to do the right thing."
Kershaw was not throwing off a mound Saturday, but simply playing catch again. As he stretched out the distance of his throws, he naturally had to throw harder. As soon as the back called out, he stopped.
"We have to save Clayton from Clayton," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "We can't allow him to try and keep pushing it to go forward."
Kershaw is not scheduled to throw Sunday, but is to resume playing catch from a shorter distance Monday and begin the progression over again.
"It told us he's getting better but it's not to the point where you want to go any farther with it," Mattingly said. "It tells you he's kinda hit the ceiling at this point and you stop."
The Teres Major muscle that's giving him trouble is not something to be nonchalant about, particularly for a pitcher. It stretches from the shoulder blade to the back of the upper arm and adds stability to the rotator cuff.
Kershaw would not say if the back pain was closer to the shoulder blade or the rotator cuff.
"It's not important," he said.
Because of the trip to Australia, he is being placed on the DL retroactive to March 23, meaning he can come off the disabled list April 7 (an off day). If he does, it means he will have missed only six games.
Unless, of course, the injury proves still more serious.