The Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a major blow last month when ace left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw left a start against the Atlanta Braves with a back injury.
Though the team has continued to play well in his absence, getting him back will be a huge boost to their World Series hopes.
Fortunately for Los Angeles fans, Kershaw's return may happen sooner rather than later, as the Dodgers gave an update on his status on Sunday.
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According to MLB.com, Kershaw threw his second bullpen session in three days and could soon progress to a simulated game. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the important thing is making sure Kershaw is fully healthy and that the team doesn't rush him back:
"I think we've been pretty cautious," Roberts said. "Which is most important. … We're in a good place with Clayton. So hopefully this next marker we pass and we can assess going forward."
The Dodgers have the best record in baseball at an incredible 83-34 and lead the National League West division by a wide margin of 17.5 games over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks, so Kershaw can afford to take his time in his rehab process.
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When he is ready for a minor-league rehab start, the Dodgers think Kershaw may only need one tune-up game before returning to the big-league rotation, which now includes right-handed ace Yu Darvish, thanks to a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline last month.
The mood around the Dodgers is very positive right now, with players loving the winning atmosphere. Outfielder Chris Taylor said everyone in the clubhouse simply wants to win every single game, but they don't take any opponent for granted (via MLB.com):
"Every day we come in here and we're focused on getting a win that day," said Taylor. "We're not worried about yesterday or tomorrow or a three-game series."
Adding Kershaw to a rotation that includes Darvish, fellow left-hander Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda, who picked up a win on Sunday, will give the Dodgers a ridiculous group of starters heading into the postseason.
Not many teams in baseball have the kind of pitchers the Dodgers have, but the question now becomes about health. If Kershaw struggles when he comes back, or if another one of LA's injury-prone hurlers lands on the DL in the next couple of months, the club could be searching for answers when October arrives.
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