Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said ace Clayton Kershaw is expected to make a rehabilitation start with either Tulsa or Oklahoma City next weekend, according to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.
Kershaw, 29, has been out of action since July 23 with a back issue. That interrupted another phenomenal season from the three-time Cy Young Award-winner, as he was 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 168 strikeouts in 141.1 innings.
The Dodgers (87-34) are within reach of finishing the season with an MLB-record 117 wins, but the health of Kershaw is the most important storyline for the team as it seeks to win its first World Series title since 1988. No player is more important to the team's championship hopes and, for that reason, the Dodgers have remained patient with his rehab.
"I think it just makes sense for us to be cautious," Roberts said on Aug. 9, per ESPN.com. "We just don't want to put ourselves in any situation where there's a setback. The calendar's on our side. I know that Clayton resists that. But I think as an organization it's best for him and best for all of us to err on the side of caution."
Barring a major collapse, the Dodgers will secure the top overall seed in the NL postseason. So playing it safe with Kershaw's return makes sense. The ultimate goal is having Kershaw to pair with Yu Darvish and the rest of the team's excellent starting staff come October.