Posted on June 30, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers have placed left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw on the 15-day DL with a back injury. Earlier this week, the team admitted that Kershaw has been dealing with soreness in his lower back they described as an “off-and-on issue” that had been around for at least two weeks. That revelation followed what was arguably Kershaw’s worst start of the season Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
At the time, manager Dave Roberts did not appear to be overly concerned and believed Kershaw would make his next scheduled start. However, all of that has now changed. Kershaw was dispatched back to Los Angeles earlier in the week to have his back examined, and on Thursday, Kershaw received an epidural shot in his lower back, prompting the Dodgers to put him on the DL.
“I think that right now, where he’s at and kind of what he’s going through with his back, I think that he understands that’s the best course of action,” Roberts said Thursday. “He’s been our most valuable player and when you lose a player to the disabled list like Clayton that you have counted on every fifth day for a start, obviously that’s out of all of our control. I know Clayton is very disappointed. But it’s up to us to pick him up.”
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The Dodgers don’t yet have a firm diagnosis on Kershaw’s back, nor do they have a timetable for his return. However, they are hopeful that he will be able to return following the all-star break. The team has not announced who pitch Friday against the Colorado Rockies, which was Kershaw’s next scheduled start.
The injury immediately stops, at least temporarily, what has arguably been the best season of Kershaw’s career. Through 16 starts, he is 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA. Had he been able to keep up that pace the entire season, it would have been hard to imagine Kershaw not winning the Cy Young for the fourth time in his career.
For the Dodgers, losing Kershaw, even if it’s just for 15 days, is a crushing blow. Los Angeles is already without starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu, Brett Anderson, and Alex Wood, and with Kershaw joining them, the Dodgers now have a full starting rotation on the DL. Of those four, only Wood has actually pitched for the Dodgers this year, although McCarthy and Ryu are currently on minor league rehab assignments.
Help could be on the way if McCarthy and Ryu can avoid setbacks during their rehab assignments, but the Dodgers have already dipped deep into their farm system to fill out their rotation. Kershaw going to the DL could push the Dodgers even more to acquire a starting pitcher, possibly two, prior to the trade deadline, especially with uncertainty regarding the severity of Kershaw’s back problem.
On the season, the Dodgers are 14-2 when Kershaw starts, but have a record that’s six games under .500 when anybody but Kershaw is on the mound. At the moment, the Dodgers are six games behind the San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West, and it’s hard to imagine then making up much ground as long as Kershaw is on the DL. The Dodgers do hold the top wild card spot in the National League, although there are three teams within two games of them, so the race is tight and competitive, and it may be difficult for the Dodgers to hold onto their place in the standings while Kershaw is on the DL.