On the day he was supposed to make his sixth start of the season, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was instead placed on the injured list with right sacroiliac joint inflammation, the team announced.
Kershaw began feeling the pain following the team’s flight home Wednesday night from Pittsburgh. He had an epidural injection on Thursday.
An MRI of Kershaw’s back showed no structural damage, the pitcher said. Both he and the team are hopeful he can return to action following, or soon after, his 15-day IL stint is up.
“I don’t feel great right now,” Kershaw said. “It’s a little sore right now. But I’m confident that by the time my [injured list] stint is over, I should be close to ready to go — if not ready to go.”
Walker Buehler will start Friday’s game instead. He will be on normal four days’ rest.
Left-handed reliever Garrett Cleavinger was recalled in a corresponding move.
Kershaw’s injury halts what had been an encouraging start to his 15th MLB season. After re-signing with the Dodgers this offseason on a one-year contract, the 34-year-old was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts.
Kershaw has dealt with back problems before. In 2016, a herniated disc kept him out for two months. In 2017 and 2018, he missed more time with back tightness. In 2020, he opened the season on the injured list because of back stiffness.
Manager Dave Roberts said this latest injury fits within “a common thread.”
The sacroiliac joints are in the hip, where the lower spine and pelvis connect. When they become inflamed, they can cause lower back pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Roberts was hopeful that Kershaw would have “a brief stint on the IL.”
“Clayton's body's really responded in the past to the epidural," Roberts added. "So I think for all of us, we're hopeful that we can get through this and expect him to make all his starts when he gets back."
Nonetheless, Kershaw’s absence will create short-term complications for the Dodgers. The team is currently in a stretch of 31 games in 30 days, and has a doubleheader on Tuesday. They had been hoping to use a six-man rotation for part of that time.
Now, they’ll have to find a couple extra starters just to get through this week.
Like Buehler, Julio Urías was also moved forward a day, now slated to start Saturday’s game.
Tony Gonsolin can pitch either Sunday or Monday, but the team will need to call up someone else for the other game. Roberts said Michael Grove, a former second-round pick off to a good start in double A, and Andre Jackson, a triple A pitcher who made three outings with the big-league club last season, are the leading candidates.
The team will need another starter to help cover Tuesday’s doubleheader. Tyler Anderson will pitch one of the games. Highly touted prospect Ryan Pepiot, who made his MLB debut on Wednesday before being optioned, seems the most likely candidate for the other.
Beyond that, the team is short on other starting options.
Mitch White is continuing to build strength after being on the COVID-19 list. Roberts said he was not going to be ready for Tuesday’s games.
David Price is expected to rejoin the club from a COVID-19 absence next week, Roberts said, but won’t be built up for anything more than two innings.
Andrew Heaney, who made two scoreless starts at the beginning of the season before going on the IL because of a shoulder injury, has resumed throwing but is still not close to a return.
For now, the Dodgers have their fingers crossed they won’t have to figure out a long-term replacement for Kershaw.
Roberts said the team is trying to be cautious with the future Hall of Famer, keeping one eye on the stretch run of the season while deciding how to proceed.
“He came back here to give us a chance to win a World Series this year,” Roberts said. “He knows when to push, when not to push him. And right now is not that time. So to take a step back, and to kind of listen to your body, it's the prudent way to handle it."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.