The Dodgers announced good and bad injury news ahead of their series-opener against the New York Mets on Thursday.
According to manager Dave Roberts, pitcher Clayton Kershaw is getting closer to returning from SI joint inflammation in his lower back. After coming through a 60-plus pitch bullpen session on Wednesday feeling good, Kershaw is scheduled to make a rehab assignment outing on Sunday with low-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Roberts said Kershaw, who last started for the Dodgers on May 7, will pitch about four innings Sunday. If all goes well, he could return to the team’s big-league rotation immediately afterward.
“As far as arm strength, he’s in a good spot,” Roberts said.
Outfielder Kevin Pillar received a far less promising diagnosis Thursday.
Scans showed Pillar suffered a fractured left shoulder, an injury that could require surgery and puts his status for the rest of the season in doubt. Roberts didn’t offer a timetable for Pillar’s return, but said surgery is a possibility for the 33-year-old Southland native who was only four days removed from debuting with his hometown club.
“Obviously he’s gonna weigh his options,” Roberts said. “But very disappointing.”
Pillar initially hurt his shoulder while sliding into third base in the third inning of Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. His shoulder “came out and came back in,” according to Roberts, but Pillar didn’t alert the team’s medical staff at first.
Instead, he stayed in the game and returned to the plate in the fifth inning. He fouled off the first pitch of that at-bat, again feeling pain in his shoulder on the swing, but then drew a walk and later advanced to third on a double.
While at third, Pillar made a sudden change of direction when a ground ball by Mookie Betts was misplayed. He returned to third base without a slide, but the violent motion had aggravated his shoulder again.
That’s when he was checked out by trainers. He eventually left the game before the next half-inning.
A West Hills native who played in high school at Chaminade Prep and college at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Pillar took Thursday’s news hard.
“I worked really hard to put myself in a position to be here,” said the nine-year MLB veteran, who was called up by the Dodgers for the first time last week after signing a minor-league deal with the club this spring. “This was the place I ultimately wanted to be, that I dreamed of since I was a little kid. I finally felt like I was fitting in here.”
Now, it’s unclear when Pillar could potentially take the field again. The team placed him on the injured list Thursday and recalled Zach McKinstry in a corresponding move. Asked if Pillar’s injury could be season-ending, Roberts declined to speculate.
“I don’t want to bet against him,” Roberts said. “But I don’t want to say either way.”
Max Muncy is expected to go on a rehab assignment this weekend, Roberts said. Muncy has taken batting practice on the field twice this week after being placed on the injured list last week because of a flare-up in his left elbow. Roberts said Muncy’s swing has looked good … As expected, the team activated left-handed reliever Caleb Ferguson prior to Thursday’s game. Michael Grove was optioned in a corresponding move.