Posted on July 24, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers will be without ace Clayton Kershaw for at least the next four to six weeks due to a back injury. The lefty will be placed on the DL Monday after pitching just two innings during Sunday’s start against the Braves. The club has not confirmed a diagnosis on Kershaw’s back. But sources close to the team report the team expects him to miss four to six weeks. This will be the second straight year Kershaw misses significant time with a back injury.
“A lot of frustration,” Kershaw said Sunday after being pulled after throwing just 21 pitches. “I’ve done countless hours of back maintenance and rehab just trying to stay healthy and felt really, really good up to this point. There’s definitely frustration, for sure.”
Kershaw was on the DL last season from early July until the second week in September because of a herniated disc in his back. However, he was outstanding in September and then gave the Dodgers four starts and one memorable relief appearance during the postseason. This should make the Dodgers optimistic that their ace will return healthy later in the season and be able to pitch effectively once he returns.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts believes Kershaw has a muscle issue, not another problem with a herniated disc. Of course, while four to six weeks is an initial estimate. There is no guarantee Kershaw returns within that timeframe. Kershaw missed nearly two and a half months last year. If he ends up missing that much time for his most recent back injury, he may not return until deep into the postseason.
“I don’t want to compare, just because there’s so many variables,” Kershaw said Sunday. “I don’t even know.”
Before this latest injury, Kershaw was having yet another banner year for the Dodgers. In 21 starts, the lefty is 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA. The Dodgers have been practically unbeatable this season when Kershaw takes the mound.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Kershaw is not the only injury concern in their starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy, who has posted a 3.84 ERA this season, is also on his way to the DL with a blister issue. Hyun-Jin Ryu is also on the DL with a foot injury. However, he’s expected to return soon. The Dodgers are also without the services of Scott Kazmir, who has not pitched all season, and Julio Urias, who is out for the season.
Of course, if any team is set up to survive without its ace, it may be the Dodgers. Even without Kershaw, Los Angeles can still rely on the trio of Alex Wood, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda. Rotation depth could be an issue, but Ryu returning soon should help out. The Dodgers have also been linked in trade rumors to both Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish. With Kershaw going to the DL, they could ramp up efforts to acquire one of those pitchers as an insurance policy.
It’s also important to note that the Dodgers have a substantial lead atop the NL West. Los Angeles began Monday with a 10.5 game lead over the Rockies. The Dodgers have been historically good over the past two months of the season. They appear poised to win their fifth straight NL West title.
As long as Kershaw is able to return within four to six weeks, the Dodgers should be fine without him. Los Angeles needs Kershaw in the postseason, but they should be able to wrap up the division without him. However, after missing two and a half months with a back issue last year, the Dodgers have to be concerned about a repeat of that this season. That fear could for the Dodgers to make a trade for a starting pitcher before the trade deadline.