Clayton Kershaw has been scratched because of a lingering hip injury. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)
Even coming off a dramatic win, this is bad. And it could get worse. A lot worse.
The best-case scenario for the Dodgers is that Clayton Kershaw will miss one start.
Kershaw has already been scratched from the Dodgers' pivotal series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday and is scheduled to visit a hip surgeon in New York on Tuesday. In what could be their most important game of the season, the Dodgers, who defeated the Cardinals, 4-3, Saturday, will hand the ball to Stephen Fife, who has three major league starts.
Manager Don Mattingly sounded as if he was preparing himself for the possibility that Kershaw might not pitch again this season. The Dodgers would not comment on the possibility that Kershaw might be forced to undergo surgery.
But if Dr. Bryan Kelly determines there is any chance Kershaw can damage his right hip by pitching, Mattingly said he won't let Kershaw return to the mound.
Even if it's the last game of the season with a playoff berth at stake?
"He won't pitch," Mattingly said. "I promise you that."
Even if Kershaw insists on pitching?
"He's not pitching," Mattingly said.
Kershaw, 24, is too valuable to the Dodgers' future.
Kershaw declined to speak to reporters, as did trainer Sue Falsone.
The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner didn't throw his scheduled bullpen session Thursday and cut short a throwing session Friday.
"He's still feeling it, knowing that he can't really extend the leg at all," Mattingly said. "There was no fight, as far as him trying to pitch. He knows he can't pitch with this."
Kershaw's pitching schedule has already been altered once because of pain in the hip. He made his last start Tuesday in Arizona, but was originally scheduled to pitch two days earlier in San Francisco.
Kershaw first felt something while working out in San Francisco on Sept. 7. The next day, he underwent an MRI exam and received a cortisone injection.
Falsone said at the time that the MRI exam didn't reveal any damage to Kershaw's labrum. Damaged labrums often have to be surgically repaired. Utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. underwent surgery this month to repair his labrum.
Falsone also said she didn't think Kershaw's hip problems were related to his foot problems.
Early in the season, Kershaw battled with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue at the bottom of the foot.
"I really don't think so," Falsone said. "The way he lands on that leg and rotates and twists every day, he always has post-throwing soreness in different areas. And for whatever reason, this time it didn't go away like normal. Any time you have that forceful rotation and landing, you do it enough times, sometimes it starts to rotate."
Kershaw lost but was spectacular in Arizona on Tuesday, as he was charged with only one unearned run over seven innings against the Diamondbacks.
"But that was with a cortisone shot," Mattingly said. "That's a pretty good masking agent.
"Obviously, something's wrong enough that it's not bouncing back. Until we get some more information on Tuesday, we won't have plans. At this point, I think he's missing a turn, unless we have some kind of dramatic change."
Kershaw is 12-9 with a 2.70 earned-run average. He is the undisputed ace on a rotation that includes four back-end starters: Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Joe Blanton.
Of the possibility of being without Kershaw for the rest of the season, Mattingly said, "It's not really a good thought. You don't want to think about going through it. When Kersh goes, you count on him saving your 'pen. It's one of those days you know he's going to go seven, usually. You know you're going to be in the game and have a pretty good chance to win."