If you happened to catch one of several breaking stories during Monday’s rather lengthy delay in Chicago, you would have learned that staff ace Clayton Kershaw may soon be ready for major league action, coming one step closer to bringing the club’s starting rotation back to the original Opening day five.
Before the rain came at Wrigley Field, Kersh threw a three-inning, forty-five pitch simulated game which was contested by big league hitters like Cody Bellinger and Chase Utley, who were swinging legitimately. Skipper Dave Roberts watched carefully, later commenting that he was very much encouraged by the way the ball was coming out of the Kershaw’s hand despite several mechanical flaws in previous sessions.
Recovering from biceps tendinitis, CK returned to the mound on May 31; however, days after his return he was forced back onto the disabled list with a lower-back strain. Many would think that the team would be cautious to bring Kershaw back slowly, but Roberts pointed out that since his activity has been dormant over many weeks, it might make sense to skip any prospective rehab starts.
“You can absolutely make that case and that was our thought,” said Roberts. “When you talk to the player, look at how much he’s pitched the last two months, it hasn’t been a whole lot. To see it in real competition makes a lot of sense.”
Coincidentally, Monday’s sim game came on the four-year anniversary of his only no-hitter against the Rockies in 2014.
A firm decision should be made soon, as the primary consideration could be the way Kershaw feels when he starts moving around Tuesday morning. Regardless, righty Kenta Maeda is back in the rotation and seems comfortable after a five-inning outing against the Rangers last week. He’ll start the first leg of the doubleheader on Tuesday.
(Update: On Tuesday morning, the team decided that Kershaw will throw approximately four innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday, June 23, then be reinstated to the big league rotation for his subsequent start.)
And veteran southpaw Rich Hill, who has been sidelined with yet another blister issue since May 20, will be reinstated to the 25-man roster to pitch the second game of Tuesday’s twin bill. Apparently, Hill has made a few adjustments in his mechanics, but the real test will come by seeing if his left-middle finger holds up after repeatedly throwing his curve to legitimate, big league batters.
With Kershaw, Maeda, Hill and Alex Wood all healthy, the Los Angeles starting five will conceivably be at 4/5 of the original Opening Day rotation. The other missing piece, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, is also on the fast-track for a potential return; however, considering the way that right-hander Ross Stripling is throwing at the moment, it’s tough to see him being bumped out for anyone in the organization.
Additionally, righty Walker Buehler isn’t too far away from rejoining the team. But while there’s a presumable innings limit on the youngster’s arm this season, now may be the best time to give him a rest period, ensuring his ribs are fully healed before he begins throwing again with meaningful velocity.