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Clayton Kershaw lands on disabled list again with bulky back

Clayton Kershaw’s return to the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation lasted all of one start. The veteran left-hander was placed on the 10-day disabled list again Friday after being diagnosed with a lower back strain.

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Kershaw, who’s had back issues in the past, lasted only five innings in Thursday’s return start against the Philadelphia Phillies. He was effective enough, allowing one run on four hits, while walking one and striking out five. However, with his fastball velocity consistently sitting in the high 80s, it was clear he wasn’t entirely himself. 

How long will Clayton Kershaw be sidelined?

The Dodgers confirmed Kershaw’s injury after an MRI was performed early Friday. It’s not clear how long the ailment will keep him sidelined, but it’s worth noting he missed five weeks last season with an injury that was also termed a lower back strain. 

In 2016, Kershaw missed 10 weeks with a  herniated disc in his back. 

It’s obviously a disappointing development for both Kershaw and the Dodgers, especially with it coming so quickly after Kershaw’s anticipated return. The 31-year-old left-hander spent four weeks on the disabled list recovering from biceps tendinitis. 

How will the Dodgers replace Kershaw?

The Dodgers are dealing with multiple injuries in the starting rotation right now. In addition to Kershaw, veterans Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda are also on the disabled list with relatively new ailments. That means manager Dave Roberts will have to mix and match his way through some games over the next few weeks.

That will begin on Friday in Colorado when the Dodgers employ the “opener” strategy the Tampa Bay Rays have relied on this season. Scott Alexander will be the starter, or the opener, in a game that will exclusively featured Dodgers relievers. The Rays have used the strategy to mixed results this season. It’s unclear if the Dodgers will continue to use it moving forward, or if it’s a one night occurrence.

Either way, it highlights their plight with the three key starting pitchers unavailable.

Clayton Kershaw looked stellar in his return from the disabled list on Wednesday, but his fastball velocity might tell another story.

Can the Dodgers rely on Kershaw moving forward?

If healthy, they surely can. In eight starts this season, Kershaw has posted a solid 2.76 ERA while striking out 53 batters over 49 innings. He might be 1-4 on the season, and the Dodgers might be 2-6 in games he’s started, but he’s gotten the job done.

Whether Kershaw’s body will cooperate is the bigger question. With the ailments piling up, it’s fair to wonder if his durability will become a big issue. That question looms large as Kershaw’s decision to opt out of his contract with Los Angeles nears. He’ll have that option during the upcoming offseason.

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