March 2, 2024

Clayton Kershaw
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Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw left Thursday afternoon’s opener against the San Francisco Giants with lower back soreness. the team announced. Kershaw allowed two runs in four innings, then exited after throwing a few warmup pitches before the fifth.

The NBC Sports Bay Area broadcast appeared to capture Kershaw telling the coach, “it’s my back,” as he left the field. Here’s the video:

Kershaw, 34, has a history of back problems. He missed 41 days with back inflammation in 2014, 74 days with a herniated disc in 2016 and 39 days with a back strain in 2017. Kershaw also spent brief stints on the disabled list with back issues in 2018 and 2020. Last season, flexor The injury cost him much of the second half and the postseason, and he missed time with a hip injury earlier this year.

The Dodgers didn’t add a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, and in fact traded for a piece of rotation depth in Mitch White. He started 10 games earlier this season and four last season, and was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays. The club’s rotation depth chart currently looks like this:

  1. RHP Walker Buehler (out June 10 with forearm injury, may return in September)
  2. LHP Clayton Kershaw (left Thursday’s start with injury)
  3. LHP Julio Urías
  4. RHP Tony Gonsolin (23 1/3 innings shy of previous career high)
  5. LHP Tyler Anderson
  6. LHP Andrew Heaney (healthy now, but limited to five starts due to shoulder issues so far this year)
  7. RHP Ryan Pepiot (9 2/3 innings shy of previous career high)

Losing Kershaw for any length of time would be a significant blow, although Los Angeles came into Thursday with a comfortable 11 1/2-game lead in the NL West, so they have given themselves a cushion. Given his history with back problems, expect the Dodgers to be conservative with Kershaw’s rehab and rehab work to avoid a setback.

Nothing is locked in just yet, but the big division lead gives the Dodgers some breathing room. Their priority is making sure the rotation is in top shape by October, not chasing every win in August and September. They’ll do what they need to do to get through games over the next couple of months without overstretching their projected postseason starters, even if Kershaw is on the sidelines.

Going into Thursday, Kershaw had a 2.66 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 14 starts and 81 1/3 innings this year. He was an All-Star for the ninth time. Kershaw signed a one-year, $17 million contract last season and seems to be going from year to year at this point in his career.

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