Clayton Kershaw could return to Dodgers staff this week

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Update: Manager Dave Roberts confirmed Kershaw’s start on Friday against the Marlins, via Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA.

It was his first rehab stint since he landed on the disabled list with a herniated disc back in July, and Clayton Kershaw looked pretty good. Against the scenic backdrop of LoanMart Field, Kershaw blazed through the Single-A Modesto lineup with ease, striking out five batters and yielding one hit in three scoreless frames. His slider looked sharp, and the velocity on his fastball hovered right around his season average of 93.7 m.p.h.

The most important part of Kershaw’s outing wasn’t stymieing the Modesto Nuts’ offense, however, but making sure that the left-hander could get through a few innings without pain or stiffness in his back. According to Jim Alexander of The Orange County Register, Kershaw’s postgame comments were largely positive, and barring any last-minute complications, he estimated a return to the big league mound as soon as Friday:

I think they’re still ironing some stuff out, but at this point it’s still kind of a pitch count deal, making sure that I can contribute and not just go out there. It helps that it’s September, and we’ve got a lot of guys out there in the bullpen. We’re still working the kinks out, but we’ll see.

There’s no official word from the team yet, and it’s likely that Kershaw will be shackled to some kind of pitch limit as the season winds down. He exhausted his full range of pitches on Saturday and struggled to command his curveball on several occasions.

Until their ace is up to full speed, the Dodgers will turn to right-hander Jose De Leon, who’s scheduled for his major league debut on Sunday at 4:10 PM EDT.