The herniated disk in Clayton Kershaw's lower back won't necessarily intensify the pursuit of a starting pitcher before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, Andrew Friedman, the team's president of baseball operations, said Sunday.
The Dodgers want to get a better handle on Kershaw's absence — the ace is expected to miss at least a month — and how well newly acquired right-hander Bud Norris and returning starters Brandon McCarthy (elbow surgery) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder surgery) fare this month before plunging into the market. And the need for a bat could exceed the need for an arm.
"We've started conversations and have targeted a number of guys regardless of what's going on," Friedman said. "Of course, as things play out the next few weeks, the importance of certain areas will grow and others will decrease. But it's still pretty early on in those conversations."
The quality and cost of pitching will affect decisions. A starter the caliber of Cole Hamels or David Price, who were traded last July, is not expected to be available this summer.
Among the better options could be Oakland's Sonny Gray, Atlanta's Julio Teheran, the Chicago White Sox's Jose Quintana and Tampa Bay's Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Moore.
"It will be interesting to see," Friedman said. "I think there are a lot of guys who are available; the question is at what cost. … As you get further into this month things will start to crystalize as to what is more practical. But I think the strength and depth of our system puts us in a position that deals won't happen without us being in the conversation."
Friedman said Kershaw, who received an epidural on Wednesday, has begun a five-step rehabilitation program that emphasizes core-strengthening. But a timeline for Kershaw's return is tough to pinpoint.
"So much of this is specific to the individual — it really varies from guy to guy," Friedman said. "Throwing will be a big step, and as soon as we can get him there in a responsible way, we'll do it."
First things first
A tweak in Scott Kazmir's pregame routine helped the left-hander overcome his first-inning struggles Saturday night.
After completing his normal warm-up routine, Kazmir threw a simulated inning in the bullpen with a batter in the box to mimic left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon and the right-handed DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado.
Kazmir, who had a 9.00 earned-run average and .342 opponents average in the first inning of his first 16 starts, hit Blackmon with a pitch to start the game. But he struck out LeMahieu and Arenado and got Carlos Gonzalez to ground out, the start of a strong six-inning effort in which he gave up three hits and struck out 10.
"It seemed to kind of lock me in a little bit and get me prepared for the first inning," Kazmir said. "You get a better feel when you see hitters in the box. On certain pitches, you get that release point on where you want to start pitches. … It's something I've done before. I kind of went away from it, but I think I need to stay more consistent with it."
Shortstop Corey Seager extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a first-inning single. … Right-hander Brock Stewart, who started Wednesday in Milwaukee, was optioned to triple-A to clear a roster spot for McCarthy. Pitcher Yaisel Sierra, who signed a six-year, $30-million deal in February, was also outrighted off the 40-man roster to make room for McCarthy.