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Dodgers manager not ruling out surgery for ace Clayton Kershaw

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Kershaw long term more important than 2016 (1:31)

The Baseball Tonight crew provides its reaction to Clayton Kershaw's status and explains why the Dodgers should handle it by turning to their minor league system, which could put a toll on the bullpen. (1:31)

WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged that Clayton Kershaw could need surgery on his ailing back, although the club hopes that the staff ace will not need it and will return to pitch this season.

Roberts was asked before Wednesday night's 8-1 loss at Washington if there is more of a chance for surgery since the initial setback.

"To answer your question, yes," Roberts said. "I think that with the way it flared up, it's more of an indication that surgery is more of a possibility obviously with the way his back responded, but we're still hopeful that he will be back. When you're talking about the back, that is always an option, but we're certainly hopeful that Clayton will be back, absolutely."

On Thursday, Roberts stepped back on his comments, referring to the ensuing reports as "overblown."

"[It] makes you a little jaded," Roberts said, "almost want to be Bill Belichick-like [when it comes to talking about injuries]."

Kershaw last pitched June 26 at Pittsburgh and was treated for a sore lower back the next day. He went on the disabled list a few days later and was making enough progress in his rehab to throw a simulated game Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

But after his 60-pitch simulated game, Kershaw reported more back soreness and the Dodgers immediately stopped all baseball activity.

Roberts said he has not been told by any team doctors that surgery might be needed. His optimism stems from indications that Kershaw is not having any shooting pain from his back to his legs, which would suggest a nerve issue.

"No shooting pains and that is something that, talking with our docs, is a concern, but with Clayton that is not a symptom," Roberts said.

Roberts said he last spoke by phone with Kershaw two days ago, and at the time the pitcher was trying to remain optimistic.

"His mood is more trying to keep our guys positive and he's disappointed because he knows how much he can help us," Roberts said. "But he is trying to keep his focus, as Clayton does, on his teammates. But his focus is getting back this year."

Kershaw has stopped all baseball activity, and there is no timetable for a return. After Wednesday night's loss to the Nationals, the Dodgers have 66 games remaining over the last two-plus months of the season.

Kershaw had been in the midst of a historic season before he was injured. In 16 starts, the left-hander was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA, which still leads baseball. He had 145 strikeouts in 121 innings, with just nine walks.