Unable to pitch since May 1 as he recovered from biceps tendinitis, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to return from the disabled list on Thursday and start against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Stuck in fourth place with a losing record, the Dodgers elected to start Kershaw in a major league setting rather than sending him out on a minor league rehabilitation outing. Kershaw made rehab starts when he returned from the disabled list for back injuries in both 2016 and 2017.
Kershaw threw four innings in a simulated game on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. He played catch on Sunday. Manager Dave Roberts indicated there would be no restrictions on Kershaw’s pitch count against the Phillies.
“I’m happy for Clayton just feeling healthy,” Roberts said before Sunday’s series finale against San Diego. “Performing is one thing. But if he feels healthy and strong, we’ll be on the performance. As we’re playing better baseball, to add him to the mix, that’s a really good thing for all of us.”
For the 2018 Dodgers, the concept of “better baseball” is relative. The group entered Sunday with a below-.500 record for the month of May, which they have played almost exclusively without Kershaw. He will start on the final day of the month as a bookend.
The Dodgers have placed two other starting pitchers on the disabled list this month. Hyun-Jin Ryu is not expected to return from his torn groin muscle until after the All-Star break. Rich Hill throws the baseball on a daily basis, but Roberts still believes Hill will miss four weeks because of blisters.
Kershaw has performed below his usual standard this season, with a 2.86 earned-run average and a 1-4 record. That reflects more on the quality of his output throughout his career than it does on his current viability.
“It’s a big lift,” Roberts said. “You’ve got your ace coming back, as we’ve righted the ship a little bit, trending in the right direction. To get him back every fifth day is obviously, to compare it to having [Justin Turner] back on the position player front, it’s pretty comparable.”