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What’s next for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers’ rotation

A Thursday bullpen session in Phoenix could set things in motion for the weekend.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

We don’t yet know who is starting Friday on the mound for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix, but if it’s someone not currently with the team they would certainly know by today.

What we do know is Clayton Kershaw, currently on the injured list with back stiffness, will not start Friday. But that doesn’t rule him out for the series in Arizona.

Dave Roberts wouldn’t commit to an exact date for Kershaw’s next start, but said he expects to pitch on this current road trip, which takes the Dodgers to San Diego after their weekend series in Phoenix.

“I’m encouraged that it will be sooner than later,” Roberts said on a conference call Wednesday.

Kershaw before Tuesday’s game in Houston threw a 32-pitch warmup session, similar to his usual pregame routine, then threw 10-15 pitches in a simulated inning. He will throw a bullpen session again on Thursday in Phoenix.

“For him to come out of that, we just felt that was a huge positive. In talking to the medical staff and Mark [Prior, pitching coach], for him to now throw just a regular side section bullpen before starting would be the next hurdle,” Roberts said. “We just thought that that’s the next thing to do, as opposed to just getting him into a game. That’s why we chose not to just start him on Friday.”

If all goes well for Kershaw, he’d be lined up to start Sunday’s series finale in Arizona, which makes sense for a couple of reasons. A Friday start, had that been the route, would have come three days after his Tuesday throwing session. Three days after Thursday is Sunday.

Also, slotting is Kershaw on Sunday keeps everyone in the rotation on five days rest through the rest of the road trip, including giving Buehler an extra day after making his season debut on Tuesday. Coupled with next Thursday’s off day, the Dodgers could then theoretically avoid using a starter on four days rest until August 12 at home against the Padres, their 18th game of the season.

That potential extra rest for the staff is afforded with a spot start this Friday against the Diamondbacks. Should the Dodgers choose to use pitchers currently with the team, Dennis Santana and Victor Gonzalez figure to be the options, perhaps to start a bullpen game, though Roberts said Gonzalez is built up to 3-4 innings. Gonzalez is on the taxi squad for now, and adding him to the active roster would require a corresponding move, but with a current 12-man bullpen that won’t be a problem.

If the Dodgers call somebody up from the alternate site at USC, that would also require a roster move. It would also require some advance notice, because said pitcher — whether it’s 40-man options Tony Gonsolin or Mitchell White, or prospect Josiah Gray — would need to drive from Los Angeles in Phoenix, to avoid commercial air travel and the health and safety concerns that come with it.

Roberts said they haven’t yet made a decision on Friday’s starting pitcher yet, which makes sense since it might depend on how much the bullpen is used Wednesday. He did say that if a pitcher is brought up from USC, they’d know at some point Wednesday.