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Clayton Kershaw set to rejoin Dodgers rotation on Friday

It appears Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will be back on the mound Friday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Clayton Kershaw, whose aversion to the disabled list is as deep-seated as anyone in baseball, was asked what he learned from the experience of sitting out these last two months because of a herniated disk in his lower back.

“I’ll never get hurt again,” the Dodgers left-hander and three-time National League Cy Young Award winner said on Sunday. “It’s awful.”

It wasn’t for the Dodgers, who not only survived but thrived in Kershaw’s absence, going 34-24 without him through Saturday night and turning an eight-game division deficit into a two-game lead entering Sunday’s game against the San Diego Padres.

But the Dodgers know that to have any chance of playing deep into October, they need their ace, which is why Manager Dave Roberts’ pregame meeting with reporters on Sunday was filled with so much excitement and anticipation.

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Kershaw, Roberts said, will start on Friday in Miami after feeling no ill effects from Saturday night’s three-inning, one-hit rehabilitation stint for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. It will be Kershaw’s first big-league action since June 26 in Pittsburgh.

“It’s going to be fun,” Kershaw said. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m excited to get back out there and get going.”

Kershaw’s return should provide a significant boost for an injury-ravaged rotation that has relied heavily on several rookies this summer but, barring setbacks, could line up Kershaw, Rich Hill, who has thrown six shutout innings in his two Dodgers starts, and Kenta Maeda for a playoff series.

“When you look on paper … it’s very formidable, we can take those three against any three in baseball,” Roberts said. “It starts with Clayton. For him to do what he did [Saturday] night, we’re going to continue to keep our fingers crossed, but if there’s anyone that we can bet on, it’s Clayton Kershaw.”

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Kershaw, who was 11-2 with a 1.79 earned-run average when he got hurt, said he felt “OK” while throwing 34 pitches in Saturday night’s game and 15 more in the bullpen afterward.

Just as important, Kershaw “felt pretty solid” on Sunday, free of the day-after discomfort that bothered him at times throughout the rehabilitation process.

“I only know how I feel right now, and I feel good,” Kershaw said. “So that’s good.”

Though dominating Class-A hitters Saturday night won’t help Kershaw much come Friday, the act of repeating his violent delivery and letting his pitches fly in the wake of a serious injury helped him overcome a mental hurdle of sorts.

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“The good thing about getting into a game is that you’re thinking about getting a hitter out as opposed to how you feel,” Kershaw said. “I don’t know if it was a mental hurdle, but it was just kind of nice to face hitters in a game setting.”

Kershaw, who prides himself on pitching deep into games, knows he won’t be able to throw complete games in his first few starts back. But with expanded September rosters affording teams deeper bullpens, the Dodgers can more easily cover shorter stints from baseball’s best pitcher.

“It’s a big lift to get him back,” Roberts said. “Everybody in that clubouse is excited. We’ve all anticipated Clayton’s return. For Clayton to watch his teammates for this length of time, I know it was killing him, so to be active again and to help us win a baseball game, I think he’s over the moon.”

Short hops

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Jose De Leon’s nine strikeouts Sunday were the second-most by a Dodgers pitcher in his major league debut. Pedro Astacio (versus Philadelphia in 1992) and Kazuhisa Ishii (versus Colorado in 2002) each each struck out 10. …

Maeda, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart against Arizona this week. …

Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke’s start Monday night will be his first in Dodger Stadium since spurning the Dodgers to sign a six-year, $206.5-million deal with Arizona last winter. …

Dodgers left-hander Scott Kazmir, out since Aug. 23 because of neck inflammation, is scheduled to throw six innings and 90 pitches in a rehab start for triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League playoffs Wednesday. Roberts said Kazmir will return to the rotation during next week’s series in Yankee Stadium. …

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Roberts said Hill emerged from Saturday night’s game with no recurrence of the blister problems that have plagued the left-hander’s first month with the Dodgers since his Aug. 1 trade from Oakland.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna


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