Fighting sore back, Kershaw to undergo tests

Fighting sore back, Kershaw to undergo tests

MILWAUKEE -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's next start is in jeopardy as he will be sent to Los Angeles on Wednesday to have his sore back examined by club doctors. Kershaw will be examined by noted back surgeon Robert Watkins.

Kershaw, the latest victim of the team's pitching-injury epidemic, came up sore on Monday after his Sunday night loss in Pittsburgh. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Tuesday said he is "still hopeful" Kershaw will be able to start on Friday at home against Colorado.

However, Kershaw did not throw his regular between-starts bullpen session on Tuesday, and should he go two days without throwing, it would be highly unlikely he could then start on his normal schedule. He could have one additional start before the All-Star break.

"He's not any better," said Roberts. "So we decided to fly him back [Wednesday]. Not pitching here in Milwaukee, as we look at the Friday start, to get him a couple days back home. Consult with the docs and see where to go from there. We're still hopeful for Friday. We want to get him in the doctors' hands, and they do what they can to figure out what's going on. It's been a few weeks that it started barking a little bit. Right now, we want to get some answers."

About the only logical candidate to make a spot start on Friday would be swingman Carlos Frias, who has started in the Major Leagues and currently is at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Roberts said he was "not even thinking" about who would start in Kershaw's place. That's understandable, as Roberts is having trouble finding enough pitchers to fill the starting rotation for each cycle. The Dodgers plan to call up righty Brock Stewart, their No. 26 prospect, from Oklahoma City to start on Wednesday night against the Brewers. Stewart opened the season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, and Roberts has never seen him pitch.

"Part of it you want to put out of your mind, and part of it you want to be as thorough, which we're doing," said Roberts. "Once we get more information, the Friday start, with who [Kershaw] is, and with any of our players, we still want to be prudent. The training staff and [Kershaw] conferred, and the feeling was this was the best thing for Clayton."

Roberts said Kershaw's problem is in his lower back, not related to the right hip injury that has troubled him in the past.

One reason Kershaw has been as consistently dominant for as long as he has is his durability. He has officially been on the disabled list only once, for six weeks after straining the teres major muscle in his upper back in the 2014 season opener in Sydney, Australia. He was scratched from a 2012 start and again in 2015 with a minor right hip impingement. He also suffered a separated right (non-throwing) shoulder running into the wall while shagging during batting practice in September 2009, missing three weeks but not going on the disabled list.

Losing Kershaw for any length of time would be devastating to a rotation that already has Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson on the disabled list.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.