Clayton Kershaw to Skip Rehab Start, Return Saturday vs. Mets After Back Injury

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 31: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies in the second inning at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
John McCoy/Getty Images

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will pitch this weekend as expected, but there has been a change of plans as to where he will take the mound.

As he works his way back from a lower back strain, Kershaw was expected to make an appearance for Triple-A Oklahoma City this weekend as part of a rehab assignment. Instead, he will pitch for Los Angeles against the New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.

Kershaw threw in a simulated game on Monday at Wrigley Field. The southpaw, via Gurnick, made it known that he "felt really good" afterward. Even Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was impressed.

"It was good. Very encouraged," Roberts said, via Gurnick. "Just the way the ball was coming out today, the command of the fastball, as good as it's been in a month, for sure."

As promising as that simulated game was, the organization decided shortly after that the three-time Cy Young Award winner would go out on a rehab assignment before pitching in the big leagues again. After all, he had pitched just once (and five innings) in the majors since May 1.

Well, something must have happened over the past few days to convince Los Angeles that the seven-time All-Star is ready.

Kershaw suffered the back strain on May 31, the same game in which he was making his return from a disabled list stint for left biceps tendinitis. And given his history with back injuries, this is something the franchise had to approach with caution.

He missed two-plus months in 2016 while dealing with a mild herniated disk and more than a month in 2017 because of a lower-back strain. Fortunately for all involved parties, this latest injury has only sidelined him for about three weeks. 

"I didn't really have any expectations," Kershaw said, via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "But, yeah, it has gone faster (than last year). I don't know why. Maybe it (the strain) wasn't as bad. Maybe it just healed faster. Maybe it's the time of year. I don't know."

Kershaw has a 2.76 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in eight starts this season, striking out 53 batters in 49 innings. He is 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA and a 0.861 WHIP in five career starts at Citi Field, tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout back in 2015.

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