Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was back on the mound Sunday at Dodgers Stadium - he faced live hitters for the first time in a simulated game as part of his rehab from a back injury.
The 26-year-old threw 50 pitches from the windup and the stretch and did not report any discomfort afterward. Far from midseason form, Kershaw reportedly threw at max effort and topped out at 90 mph.
"Obviously, you can't simulate the adrenaline you have in a big-league game, because that's where you get your extra velocity and stuff from,” Kershaw told Fox Sports after the workout. “As far as pitching at 10 a.m. in a sim game, that's all I've got.”
The two-time Cy Young Award winner was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career just days after his opening day start March 22 in Australia. Kershaw pitched 6 ⅔ innings, allowed one run, and struck out seven in a 3-1 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kershaw believes a rehab assignment could be the next step in his comeback, according to ESPN.
Dodgers Catcher A.J. Ellis - who is also on the disabled list - caught the practice game and liked what he saw from the lefty.
"I think there was some very, very small rust in the way he threw, but he looked great and he was throwing everything," Ellis told the Associated Press afterward.
Ellis had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee. He hurt it April 6 sliding into home during a game against the San Francisco Giants. He’s eligible to come off the disabled list today.
Kershaw has led the National League in ERA in each of the past three seasons. He is in the first year of a seven-year $215 million contract; the richest for any pitcher in Major League Baseball history.