Clayton Kershaw injury poised to influence Dodgers' plans

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw's back injury has quickly forced the Los Angeles Dodgers to make some changes, and more could be on the way.

In the week that the team’s staff ace has been down with a mild disc herniation in his lower back, the Dodgers have traded for starting pitcher Bud Norris and brought back Brandon McCarthy from the disabled list. McCarthy made his 2016 debut on Sunday.

Now, with four weeks remaining until the non-waiver trade deadline, the Kershaw situation is likely to shape trade talks.

“We started conversations with other teams shortly after the draft and we have a number of target guys we are interested in irrespective of what’s going on,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “Of course, as things play out the next few weeks, the importance of certain areas will grow and others will decrease. But it’s still pretty early on in those conversations.”

Friedman added that the trade market is still in the early stages of its evolution.

“Those on the sell side are taking their time a little bit as they’re apt to do this time of the year,” Friedman said. “It usually takes until you are closer to the deadline for things to really pick up. But we have had a lot of different conversations on a lot of different fronts. We’ll see what ends up making sense.”

Last season, guys like Cole Hamels and David Price were available, but the Dodgers did not land that level of pitcher. So what kind of talent will define this trade market?

“It will be interesting to see,” Friedman said. “I think there are a lot of guys who are available. The question is at what cost. There were pitchers available this offseason, but none of them ended up moving because of the price they put on it.

“I think that as you get further into this month is when things start to crystalize a little more of what is more practical. But I think the strength and depth of our system puts us in really good position that deals won’t happen without us being in the conversation.”

Despite Kershaw’s follow-up examination Saturday, the Dodgers still are not comfortable revealing a timetable for the return of their staff ace.

Kershaw last pitched at Pittsburgh last Sunday. He started receiving treatment for back discomfort on Monday and by Wednesday he was back in Los Angeles getting an epidural shot while the team played in Milwaukee. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday.

“We don’t know much more than we did a few days ago,” Friedman said. “Everything that’s happened in the last three to four days has been positive. That being said, I think we’ll know more in the next week. We need to give it time past the epidural to get a sense for improvement and go from there.”

Kershaw has been treated by the team's back specialist, Dr. Robert Watkins.

“So much of this is specific to the individual, and in talking to Dr. Watkins, it really varies guy to guy,” Friedman said. “There’s a five-step program that Dr. Watkins has that Kersh is starting, and at some point in that is when he would start throwing. Obviously that would be a big first step, and as soon as we can get there in a responsible way, we’ll do it.”

Kershaw will be eligible to pitch again when the second half starts July 15 at Arizona, but there is no way of knowing whether he will be ready to go by then. The Dodgers have won three consecutive games since Kershaw’s back injury was diagnosed, and the club has done well to keep its cool so far.

“It just doesn’t do any of us any good to be frustrated; it’s part of the game,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. But what I am most proud of is that the 25 active guys at any one time have never used it as an excuse.”