The Dodgers could soon have their ace back.
Clayton Kershaw, the defending National League Cy Young award winner, said Sunday he expects to embark on a minor league rehabilitation assignment this week. The Dodgers offered no timetable for his return to the major leagues, but one source said he believed Kershaw could rejoin the Dodgers on their next trip, which extends from April 29 through May 7.
Kershaw pitched a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Manager Don Mattingly said Kershaw reached 90 mph and has been cleared to pitch without restrictions.
"It felt good," Kershaw said. "As far as pitching at 10 a.m. in a simulated game, that's probably all I've got."
Kershaw said he expects a rehabilitation assignment comes next, assuming he reports no discomfort Monday. Mattingly said the Dodgers' training staff has not informed him of a next step or rehabilitation plan but said Kershaw would need to build enough stamina to start a game without the team needing to hold another starter in reserve.
Kershaw made 50 pitches in Sunday's simulated game, so two minor league starts might be sufficient. He made 102 pitches in the Dodgers' March 23 season opener, his only start before going on the disabled list because of what the team called a strained upper-back muscle.
Kershaw's performance was not the only encouraging part of the simulated game. A.J. Ellis caught it, 12 days after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. At the time, the Dodgers announced a projected rehabilitation of four to six weeks; Mattingly said Sunday the timetable was three to six weeks.
Ellis appears ahead of any timetable. He said he hopes to run early this week, and soon after play two or three games on a minor league rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the Dodgers.
Kershaw shook off Ellis during the simulated game.