MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Dodgers won't fret over Kershaw's absence

Dodgers won't fret over Kershaw's absence

MILWAUKEE -- The 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers are 14-2 when Clayton Kershaw starts for them. They are 30-35 when anybody else starts.

That captures the essence of this situation. Now, the one player on the Dodgers' roster who could truly be considered indispensable is headed to the 15-day disabled list with what was diagnosed as a mild herniated disc in his lower back that will not require surgery.

• Kershaw heads to DL with mild herniated disc

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that Kershaw had received an epidural injection to alleviate the lower back pain.

Kershaw's injured status brings the number of Dodgers starting pitchers on the DL to five. The Dodgers, temporarily down to a four-man rotation, traded two Minor League pitchers to Atlanta on Thursday in a deal to bring in an established right-hander, Bud Norris, to Los Angeles.

• Dodgers acquire righty Norris from Braves

"Bud's been pitching well, I had him in San Diego for a bit and he's really been throwing well," Roberts said. "For [the Dodgers' front office] to get us a guy who can go deep into games and get guys out was huge. We're excited about it."

Norris isn't Kershaw, but then, nobody else is either. At the least, Norris is coming off a month in which he basically revived his career. And he can take Kershaw's scheduled start against the Rockies on Friday night in Los Angeles on regular rest.

Justice on Norris to the Dodgers

"Obviously, it takes a toll when you lose your No. 1 guy, especially Kershaw, who is a presence not only in the clubhouse, but out on the field," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "I feel like Bud Norris did a pretty good job against us. I feel like he can be an addition, not only as a starter, but once we get other guys back, maybe he can help us out of the 'pen, too. But it's always hard to lose your No. 1 guy."

Kershaw placed on the DL

Apart from Norris, the other members of the Dodgers' rotation are Scott Kazmir, 19-year-old Julio Urias, Brock Stewart, who made his first Major League start Wednesday night after beginning the season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, and Kenta Maeda.

Kershaw's absence makes Maeda the de facto ace of the rotation. On Thursday, Maeda did his bit to compensate for Kershaw's departure with a fine performance in an 8-1 victory over the Brewers. Maeda went six innings, giving up one run on three hits, allowing two walks and striking out six.

Maeda is now 7-5 with a 2.82 ERA. The Dodgers can reasonably ask him to remain reliable.

Maeda fans six in six innings

Will the rest of the Dodgers' starters feel pressure to compensate for Kershaw's absence?

"It's hard to tell individually how the pitchers are feeling, but I think the important part is to do my job and to make sure that we can cover for Kershaw," Maeda said through an interpreter.

• Ace may be out, but don't tell Dodgers that

Kershaw's performance this season pointed clearly in the direction of a fourth National League Cy Young Award. Maybe it still will, if the back pain is eased. Kershaw is 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA, but the truly awe-inspiring portion of his numbers would be the 145 strikeouts and nine walks in 121 innings.

Broadcast on Kershaw's injury

"It just shows his will, his undeniable will, to be great," Roberts said of Kershaw. "I can't imagine how much better he could have pitched if he was pain-free."

Replacing Kershaw is not a concept grounded in reality. The next best thing would be various Dodgers "stepping up" in the time-honored parlance of the game. Some of that went on Thursday.

"He's been our most valuable player," Roberts said. "I know Clayton's very disappointed. But it's up to us to pick him up."

Beyond that concept, the Dodgers have, well, hope, as in, "We hope you get well soon, Clayton."

"I can say [the chances of only 15 days are] great, but I think how his body responds to the epidural is the most telling," Roberts said. "I don't know how it's going to be. I'm hopeful, but I can't say either way. In the coming days, we'll know how he responds to that and that will give us more direction."

There is only one Kershaw. The Dodgers have to hope that they will be operating with no Kershaw for the shortest possible period of time.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.