The Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t merely tread water in Clayton Kershaw‘s absence. They went full Michael Phelps and splashed into the lead.

When Kershaw last pitched for the Dodgers on June 26—before his back betrayed himthey were 41-36, eight games behind the hated San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

Entering play Tuesday, L.A. sat in first place, 1.5 games up on San Francisco. 

That’s partly because the Giants have stumbled, going 14-26 since the All-Star break. But give credit to the Dodgers roster for showing resilience and to rookie skipper Dave Roberts for keeping the wheels on.

Now, the really good news for the Chavez Ravine faithful: Kershaw thew a pair of simulated innings without a setback on Tuesday, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times

“My guess is that Kersh will want to pitch in a major league game tomorrow,” said president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, per McCullough. “With the time he’s missed, my guess would be the next step would be a minor league assignment. I think it will take a little bit of time to build him up in a way for him to be strong through September and hopefully October, as well.”

The words “Kershaw” and “October” occupying the same sentence should leave Dodgers fans salivating.

There are no guarantees, obviously. This herniated disc has been a nagging bane for Kershaw, costing the three-time Cy Young Award winner two months and counting. Rust and recurrence are always concerns, even for the best pitcher on the planet.

A Kershaw revival, however, makes this Los Angeles rotation exponentially more dangerous. 

Rich Hill, whom the Dodgers acquired at the trade deadline, made his belated debut Aug. 24 after struggling with a blister, tossing six scoreless frames in a 1-0 win over the Giants. 

Japanese import Kenta Maeda has been the team’s most consistent starter with a 3.38 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 146.2 innings. And rookie Julio Urias has allowed just one earned run with 14 strikeouts in his last 12 innings.

Add Kershaw, and you’re looking at a potentially fearsome group.

He’s not the only Dodgers hurler on the comeback trail. Brett Anderson (blister), Scott Kazmir (neck irritation), Brandon McCarthy (hip stiffness) and Alex Wood (elbow soreness) are all working their way back as well, per Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles.  

Soon, the Dodgers could be swimming in starting pitching depth. That’s a best-case scenario. Given the raft of injuries the club has weathered so far, L.A.’s front office should be rubbing rabbits’ feet and knocking on the conference table until their knuckles bleed.

Even if Kershaw is the sole cavalry, though, the Dodgers will take it and smile.

The offense is clicking, posting the NL’s second-best OPS (.779) since the All-Star break behind shortstop and Rookie of the Year favorite Corey Seager, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and third baseman Justin Turner. 

The bullpen, anchored by All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, is tied for the best ERA (3.35) in the Senior Circuit.

Now, insert Kershaw. The Dodgers have gone 14-2 in his starts this season and 59-56 in their other games. His 5.5 WAR is tops among all pitchers, despite his protracted DL stint. 

We could keep lobbing stats at you, but what’s the point? Kershaw is great. Like death, taxes and gravity, it’s an ironclad inevitability, assuming he’s healthy.

That’s an assumption until we see him square off against big league hitters.

You can psychoanalyze his reportedly tearful reaction, as McCullough reported, to the trade of veteran catcher A.J. Ellis, which the New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner, among others, called into question:

You can point to his career 4.59 postseason ERA as proof he won’t necessarily carry the Dodgers to the World Series promised land, no matter whether his back is right. The potent Chicago Cubs, resurgent Washington Nationals and even-year Giants all lie in wait, after all.

Set that aside, though. Kershaw is a generational talent. The Dodgers have gained significant ground in the standings without him. They’re now poised to get him back.

Forget treading water. Think full splash ahead.


All satistics current as of Aug. 30 and courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on