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Clayton Kershaw exits start with another back injury

Dodgers LHP walked off the mound with lower back pain after warm-up pitches in the 5th inning

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw left his start on Thursday against the Giants, walking off the mound during warmups in the fifth inning with low back pain, the team announced later in the game.

Kershaw motioned immediate to the dugout, appeared to tell head trainer Thomas Albert, “It’s my back,” before walking with Albert into the clubhouse.

Kershaw earlier this season missed a month with a right SI joint inflammation, between the lower back and pelvis. Back injuries are nothing new for the left-hander, who missed time on the injured list for his back in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020, plus had his Game 2 start in the 2020 NLCS pushed back by two days with back spasms.

While on the mound this season Kershaw has been effective, with a 2.64 ERA in 15 starts, among major league pitchers with at least 80 innings ranking ninth in FIP (2.72), 13th in ERA, and 14th in strikeout-minus-walk rate (21.7 percent).

He allowed two runs, one earned, in four innings against the Giants on Thursday, striking out four.

What this means for the immediate future of the Dodgers rotation remains to be seen, but the Dodgers do have off days coming next Monday and Thursday. If healthy, Kershaw’s next start would likely be next Wednesday against the Twins, on five days rest. But if he can’t go, either Tony Gonsolin could pitch in his place, on four days rest after start against the Padres this Friday.

Ryan Pepiot is scheduled to start Saturday for Triple-A Oklahoma City, if the Dodgers opt for something sooner. The Dodgers could conceivably kick the fifth-starter decision can down the road until August 16, if they so choose.

Another near-term option is Dustin May, who is on a rehab assignment with Oklahoma City and threw four innings on Wednesday. Manager Dave Roberts told reporters before Thursday’s game that May would need two more rehab starts before being activated.