LOS ANGELES -- The more Dodgers manager Joe Torre plots a conservative return to action for left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the more Kershaw wants to move up the timetable. Kershaw threw a bullpen session during the eighth inning Sunday. Torre said he will pitch out of the bullpen Wednesday in Washington and make his first start since separating his right (non-throwing) shoulder next weekend in Pittsburgh. Torre said he wanted Kershaw to start two games before the regular season is over. What he didn't say is that the Dodgers need to see Kershaw that much to determine if he is still a candidate for the postseason starting rotation.
Torre said the plan was for Kershaw to pitch relief Wednesday, when struggling All-Star Chad Billingsley is scheduled to return to the rotation after missing a start. For different reasons, Billingsley also needs to give Dodgers decision-makers two starts to determine his role for the postseason. Billingsley had a bullpen session Sunday. Kershaw, however, said he was available for bullpen duty in Sunday's game. He even swung a bat hitting off a tee for the first time since suffering the injury Sept. 3 running into the fence shagging fly balls during batting practice. "I'm ready to go," Kershaw said. "I could pitch relief today. All I can do is make myself ready to pitch and if I don't, it's their decision." While any decision for a postseason rotation would be influenced by the opponent's lineup -- the Phillies are more left-handed, the Cardinals more right-handed -- Randy Wolf and Hiroki Kuroda are the two most likely to be included. The Dodgers also have veteran right-handers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland to choose from as they whittle a six-man rotation down to four for the playoffs. After a travel day Monday, Kuroda, Billingsley and Padilla will start the upcoming games in Washington. Likely starters in Pittsburgh are Garland, Wolf, Kershaw and Kuroda.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.