Roberts spoke as Kershaw played catch in left field before the Dodgers played their second game of the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a day after the Dodgers ace watched someone else start on opening day for the first time since 2010. Kershaw began the season on the 10-day injured list with left shoulder inflammation, retroactive to March 25. It is the first time Kershaw wasn’t on the Dodgers’ opening-day roster since 2008.
Rich Hill also began the season on the injured list, leaving the Dodgers without two-fifths of their starting rotation. Hill has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. The left-hander played catch on flat ground Thursday. Roberts said he didn’t know when Hill will throw off a mound.
Kershaw had his spring training disrupted by shoulder trouble in late February after multiple bullpen sessions and tossing live batting practice. On March 20, after throwing to hitters for the first time since the setback, Kershaw estimated he would need another 20 days before he was ready to pitch, leaving the second week of April as a possibility for his debut.
That’s if Kershaw proceeds without an issue. On Saturday, he’ll face teammates who won’t be in the lineup against the Diamondbacks. If he emerges healthy, Roberts said his rehab start would be for Class AA Tulsa or Class AAA Oklahoma City. Roberts said the club has not determined how many rehab outings Kershaw will need before he’s cleared to rejoin the Dodgers.
“We’re going to let Clayton drive it because I think we don’t know,” Roberts said. “After one, he could feel good and feel he’s ready. He might feel he needs another one. So I think that we’re at a point where we understand the long view and we want him healthy.”
Kershaw dealt with shoulder discomfort last season. The irritation diminished the depth to his slider, which rendered the pitch very similar to his fastball. Kershaw worked around that — and two stints on the injured list with back and biceps injuries — to record a 2.73 earned-run average in 26 starts before allowing 14 earned runs in 30 playoff innings.
Roberts sticking to the plan
The Dodgers hatched a plan before their season-opening series. It didn’t include Joc Pederson, who has historically struggled against lefties, in Friday’s starting lineup against Diamondbacks left-hander Robbie Ray, and not even Pederson’s two home runs and double on opening day could get Roberts to deviate from it.
“I’m not saying that I’m in a box, but it’s the second game of the season,” Roberts said. “You have to be able to stick with a plan at least for a couple games.”
The plan also had Russell Martin starting at catcher instead of Austin Barnes and David Freese at first base over Max Muncy. Muncy homered and Barnes went 3 for 4 with a home run Thursday. Roberts said he wants the catchers to play every other day in the series because he didn’t want one to catch both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Seager to bat second or third
Corey Seager batted fifth in the lineup, but Roberts said that is a one-day drop for the left-handed-hitting shortstop, who batted second and homered on opening day. Roberts pointed to Seager’s struggles against Ray — he was batting .136 in 44 career at-bats before Friday — as the chief reason.
“Outside of today,” Roberts said, “I don’t see him anywhere outside of second or third."