Clayton Kershaw, who was put on the disabled list after the Dodgers' return from Australia with a strained left teres major muscle behind his left shoulder, will spend the next two-to-three weeks rehabilitating the muscle with a submaximal throwing program before being reevaluated by the team's doctors, the Dodgers announced on Tuesday. Even if Kershaw's evaluation goes well at that stage, he would likely need a minor league rehab assignment to get back to the point at which he'd be ready to start for the Dodgers again. Add in the fact that the Dodgers will likely proceed carefully with their ace and new $215 million investment, and it seems very likely that Kershaw, who won the regular season opener in Australia with a strong 6 2/3 innings, won't pitch again in the major leagues until some time in May.
Losing the best pitcher in baseball for a full sixth of the season is obviously a big blow to the Dodgers, though their relatively weak division, starting pitching depth, and plethora of April off-days could minimize the loss. Kershaw is actually the second Dodgers starter to hit the disabled list this season. Josh Beckett defeated Paul Maholm in a battle for the fifth spot in the Dodgers' rotation in camp, but sprained his right thumb in late March and opened the season on the disabled list. Beckett is already on his way back. He threw a 48-pitch simulated game on Monday but will need subsequent rehab starts to get fully stretched out, a period during which Maholm will take his spot in the rotation. With Maholm in place, the Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until April 19, so there's some flexibility as to Beckett's return. By that point, however, the Dodgers will need a full rotation, they have just one off-day between April 15 and May 14. Assuming Beckett avoids any setbacks, the Dodgers should be able to survive the loss of Kershaw for now. However, any further delay in Kershaw's projected return from an injury that was originally considered minor could change the shape of their season. The teres major muscle is the same muscle in the back of the armpit that has shelved Rangers second baseman Jurickson Profar until mid June. Profar's tear is clearly more severe than Kershaw's, but Profar doesn't need to throw as far, as hard, or nearly as often as the Dodgers ace. If there's good news to be had here for L.A., it's that this is an exterior muscle injury, not a structural one.