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Kershaw: Back issue 'not too serious,' expects return soon

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw’s back issue that forced him to miss his opening day start is improving and he hopes to return soon. Manager Dave Roberts said Friday that Kershaw had an MRI after tweaking his back three days earlier. It showed no structural damage.

“That's the most important thing,” Roberts said before the Dodgers hosted the Giants. “We're all really encouraged.” Kershaw gave no timetable for his return. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner has been receiving treatment daily.

“It’s not too serious,” he said. “It’s getting better pretty quick.” Before hurting himself in a weight room workout, Kershaw said his left pitching arm and back were feeling “great.” Things changed in a hurry, forcing him to miss making his ninth opening day start.

“The timing couldn’t have been worse, working all that time to try and stay ready,” he said. “It was pretty defeating, like how is this happening right now?” Kershaw has been bothered by back problems in the past. He was on the IL in 2016, 2017 and 2018, each time with various issues. The worst, he said, was in 2016.

“That’s the only one I truly remember being in some serious, serious pain,” he said. Kershaw was replaced in Thursday's opener by 22-year-old right-hander Dustin May, who became the first Dodgers rookie to start on opening day since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. May allowed seven hits and one run in 4 1/2 innings. He struck out four and walked none.

“He handled it really well. The stuff speaks for itself, the stuff is right up there with the best in the game,” Kershaw said. “He was pretty consistent as far as pounding the strike zone. He's going to be good.”

Besides not being able to pitch, Kershaw also couldn't sit in the dugout due to social distancing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. He moved around Dodger Stadium with teammates, including Alex Wood. They spent time in the clubhouse and the new center field seating area.

“It was weird,” Kershaw said. “At the end of the day, it was still baseball. We played another team and we won a game, so that felt pretty good. I heard the (TV) ratings were pretty good. I think the country was thankful we were able to play baseball.”

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