By Tony Jackson
CINCINNATI — The Dodgers have promoted left-hander Clayton Kershaw, their first-round pick in last summer’s draft and arguably their top pitching prospect, to Double-A Jacksonville from their Single-A Great Lakes affiliate in Midland, Mich. The surprise isn’t that Kershaw was moved — he struck out 134 batters in 97 1/3 innings for the Loons — but that he leapfrogged advanced Single-A Inland Empire.
“We want to see if we can fast-track him,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “We want to see if he is prepared to advance to that level. I saw him one time in Michigan, and he dominated. Others in the organization have seen him numerous times and come away with the same impression.”
For Kershaw, 19, the rest of the season will amount to an audition of sorts that will largely determine where he will begin next season. If he pitches well for the Suns, it might put him on track to possibly be in the majors sometime late in 2008.
“We felt like with his stuff and where he is developmentally, this will give him an opportunity for five or six starts to kind of get acclimated to facing advanced hitters,” Dodgers player development director DeJon Watson said. “It will also be an opportunity to gauge exactly where he is.”
Kershaw is expected to make his Double-A debut tonight, when Jacksonville hosts Carolina, and Colletti plans to attend.
Pitching plans: Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe has been pushed back to Saturday at St. Louis, so Brett Tomko will start on Wednesday against Cincinnati. Lowe went more than a week between starts because of a left hip injury, then had a rough, five-inning outing against Arizona on Saturday night.
“We have a chance to allot him a day or two more,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “The next time around, it won’t be that way. We think it will help him this time.”
The Dodgers don’t have another off-day until Aug. 20 and thus won’t be able to tinker with their rotation before then without making a personnel change.
Lowe didn’t suffer a setback with his injury. But pushing him back in the rotation allows him to delay his customary side session to today, which gives his hip three full days to recover from his last start.
Left behind: Reliever Chin-hui Tsao, who has been on the 15-day disabled list for the past three weeks with a right shoulder injury, was supposed to accompany the team on its current trip and begin a throwing program. But he stayed behind after he complained to Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Sunday that he continued to feel pain in the shoulder, a development trainer Stan Conte said could be termed a setback.
“He will see Dr. (Lewis) Yocum (today) for a second opinion,” Conte said.
Meanwhile, lefty Hong-Chih Kuo, who had a bone chip removed from his elbow, is on the trip, but Conte said it hasn’t been determined when Kuo will start a throwing program.
Robinson tribute: All the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliates will wear a black sleeve patch for the rest of the season bearing the initials “B.R.” in white as a tribute to Bill Robinson, the club’s minor-league hitting coordinator. Robinson died two weekends ago of an apparent heart attack while in Las Vegas with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate.