Clayton Kershaw improving, Josh Beckett at the ready

Brendon Thorne

A look at the Dodgers rotation a week before the home opener.

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw continues to improve after getting scratched from his Sunday start with inflammation in his back, but there is still no timetable for his return to the mound.

Kershaw played catch on Friday at light intensity before the Dodgers battled the Angels in the second game of their Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium and reported no tightness in his back, an improvement over Thursday.

"He took a little step forward, not that it means a whole lot," said manager Don Mattingly. "But it does mean we continue the process moving forward."

Mattingly said Kershaw will throw again on Saturday, and while it still won't be off of a mound the left-hander will throw with increased intensity. An optimistic scenario would have Kershaw ready to start the home opener on Friday against the Giants, though Mattingly stressed caution.

"We're not ready to put that kind of a timeline out there. I'm sure every day there will be another barrier to cross," Mattingly said. "The one thing to keep in mind, we're not going to let him go out there unless he's 100 percent. If there is any doubt he's 100%, we're going to pull back."

The Dodgers still don't technically have a starter set for Sunday in San Diego, though that will be announced later tonight. Hyun-Jin Ryu threw a bullpen session and took batting practice earlier Friday and if his toe feels good he will get the call.

If Ryu doesn't start Sunday, Dan Haren will. Otherwise, Haren will pitch start and pitch an inning or so on Saturday against the Angels, then start Wednesday in San Diego.

But if Ryu or Kershaw is unable to answer the bell by next weekend, the Dodgers will need another starter to fill in on either Friday or Saturday.

Josh Beckett is currently on the disabled list with a right thumb contusion, but his first game eligible to return is the home opener. As the fifth starter he originally wasn't going to be needed until mid April (as late as April 19, even), but Mattingly said Beckett would be ready next weekend if needed.

"We feel like he's ready to pitch," Mattingly said. "For the most part we would prefer him to be built up a little farther, but if he had to he's going to be a guy who by the time he is eligible could help us.

"What we tried to do in spring training, what [pitching coach] Rick [Honeycutt] has done with all our guys - and he's done a really good job - is keeping us kind of fluid with all our starters, so if we had any setbacks one way or the other, all these guys would be ready. We feel like Josh will be ready to pitch. He's been built up pretty good."

Beckett threw five innings in Wednesday's intrasquad game and is scheduled to pitch more simulated innings on Monday's off day in San Diego.

Notes

  • Matt Magill joined the Dodgers on Friday, and will in essence be the starter on Saturday against the Angels. Haren, if not starting Sunday, will start on Saturday but only pitch an inning and will be followed by Magill.
  • Dodgers 2013 second-round draft pick Tom Windle is in uniform for the Dodgers tonight. The left-hander is wearing No. 97.
  • Much like they did with The Natural last season, the Dodgers will hold three "Baseball and a movie" nights this season, with a film shown on the video boards after the game. The dates: April 26 vs. Rockies (Field of Dreams), May 31 vs. Pirates (A League of Their Own) and August 16 vs. Brewers (The Natural).
  • Mike Trout was held of the Angels lineup with a stomach virus, but is expected to play again on Saturday.
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