Kershaw ready to put back injury behind him

Kershaw ready to put back injury behind him

PHOENIX -- Clayton Kershaw met the Dodgers at Chase Field on Tuesday and greeted them with the best three words possible.

"I feel healthy," Kershaw said after a desert workout, showing no signs of the strained lower back that put him on the disabled list July 24. "Now it's just a matter of building back up at a good pace."

Kershaw played catch, fired long toss as he would before a start or bullpen session and pitched to a catcher on flat ground, throwing fastballs and breaking balls out of a windup and stretch. Having returned from a herniated disc last year, Kershaw said he knows the drill to expect -- bullpen sessions (first one probably Friday), followed by a simulated game, "definitely" followed by at least one Minor League rehab game.

"Obviously, understanding where we're at, timeline and stuff, but at the same time trying to build back," he said. "I don't feel I've lost much. Still, it's going to take a little time. I've been throwing the whole time, but if you're not sitting down and getting up, you lose a little stamina-wise and endurance."

Manager Dave Roberts, whose club entered Tuesday with a 15 1/2-game lead in the National League West, said the Dodgers won't let Kershaw rush back.

"He's close. I think it just makes sense for us to be cautious," Roberts said. "We don't want to put ourselves in a situation where there's a setback. The calendar is on our side. I know Clayton resists that. But for us, as an organization, I think it's best to err on the side of caution."

Kershaw was rehabbing in Los Angeles when last week's Trade Deadline deals brought pitchers Yu Darvish, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani to the Dodgers. He previously saw Darvish at the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.

"We all know his stuff is elite," Kershaw said. "He's got a presence about him, just walking around. I saw him in the weight room, said, 'You're going to look good in Dodger Blue in three weeks,' and it worked out. Andrew [Friedman, club president] and Farhan [Zaidi, GM] made me look good."

Kershaw missed 2 1/2 months with the back injury last year, but he is on track to return in about a month this time.

"I definitely knew it wasn't as bad as last year," Kershaw said. "When the MRI came back as good as it did, I wasn't worried. All those things considered, I guess I wasn't surprised it went away quicker."

Roberts said he expects Kershaw to make four or five starts before the regular season ends.

Avilan to paternity list

Dodgers left-handed reliever Luis Avilan was placed on the paternity list on Tuesday for the birth of his son and was replaced on the roster by right-handed pitcher Brock Stewart, who had been optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City last week to make room for the addition of Cingrani.

Roberts said Avilan is expected to take the three days allowed and will rejoin the club in Los Angeles on Friday.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.