Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to begin rehabilitation assignment Friday in Rancho Cucamonga.

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will throw approximately 55 pitches Friday in a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. (Associated Press photo)

Clayton Kershaw will make the first rehabilitation start of his career Friday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

No timetable has been set for his return to a major-league mound, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly confirmed that Kershaw will need at least two rehab starts total. He’s expected to throw approximately 55 pitches Friday — not much more than he threw in a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

“He came out of the bullpen good yesterday and we feel like we’re ready,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to let him go out, even throw that sim game, if we weren’t allowing him just to go pitch.”

Kershaw hasn’t any setbacks in his recovery from a strained teres major muscle in his upper left back since he first threw off a mound 10 days ago.

In case you were wondering, tickets for the game are sold out except on the secondary market (links at the right). Dodgers prospect Julio Urias, 17, is expected to pitch after Kershaw. A Brian Wilson “bobble-beard” giveaway will take place that night.

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will throw bullpen session Tuesday, rehab start next?

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, his next step on the road to recovery from a strained muscle in his upper back.

Kershaw threw approximately 45-50 pitches in a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium. He reported no pain Monday, then backed up his extremely limited self-report by playing long toss in the Dodger Stadium outfield (above). Kershaw threw from roughly the left-field foul line to teammate Dan Haren in left-center, well in excess of 100 feet.

Neither Kershaw nor Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would say what Kershaw’s next step is after Tuesday. If healthy, Kershaw figures to make a rehabilitation start soon.

Single-A Rancho Cucamonga plays three straight home games starting Friday, followed by four straight nearby in San Bernardino. Triple-A Albuquerque has 12 straight home games (with no days off) starting Monday.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who caught Kershaw’s simulated game, said he felt fine Monday. He participated in batting practice for the fourth straight day, but otherwise stayed off his feet and didn’t catch any live pitching.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws pain-free from 75 feet.

Clayton KershawClayton Kershaw threw from 75 feet without pain Tuesday as the pitcher continues to make progress from inflammation in the teres major muscle in his back.

In terms of his throwing program, Kershaw said he’s day to day. For now he plans on throwing from 75 feet again tomorrow.

“Hopefully every day is a little bit of a progression,” he said. “It’s basically ‘if it doesn’t hurt, do it.’ ”

Kershaw said he didn’t throw at all Monday, “my first full off-day in a while.” Other than that, he’s been throwing every day since he was temporarily shut down from throwing when the inflammation was first diagnosed.

Daily Distractions: The Dodgers’ starting rotation looks good. So does every team’s.

Aaron Harang

Former Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang, now with the Atlanta Braves, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Wednesday. So did his opponent, Matt Garza. (Associated Press photo)

I’m going to get off the topic of my fantasy baseball team quickly, promise. Just bear with me for a second.

Something strange happened this week. The first time through my rotation, my five starters gave up a total of one run. The one run belonged to Jose Fernandez (otherwise the miscreant might be booted from my rotation).

Across the majors, in the few games that have been played, pitching has been good so far. Very good. The league-average ERA is 3.31.

To some extent, that makes sense. Pitchers’ arms are healthier now than they will be in September. Some teams have only played two games, meaning they have used only their top two starters — and seen their opponents’ top two. The best pitchers in the world, all those Opening Day starters including Clayton Kershaw, have all pitched once.

The Dodgers aren’t immune to the phenomenon. Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren have allowed a total of three runs in the club’s first five games. That’s encouraging. They will need more encouragement from starters five and six, Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett, while Kershaw rests his bad back. Maholm starts Saturday against the San Francisco Giants.

It’s easy to dismiss the dominance of pitchers, but we might be witnessing the makings of a trend. This season could be a down year for hitting. While they’ve pitched well, the Dodgers are collectively hitting .229. Want to guess where that ranks among the 30 teams? Fourteenth. Sixteen clubs have batted .223 or worse in the early part of the season.

Those numbers will get better, but you wonder when we’ll see the first no-hitter of the season. It might not be long. Former Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang lost one in the seventh inning of the Braves’ 1-0 win over Milwaukee last night. So did his opponent, Matt Garza. Harang and Garza aren’t elite pitchers anymore, but they were elite Wednesday.

Let’s see if this trend continues.

Some bullet points for a Tweed Day:
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Dodgers announce that Clayton Kershaw will miss well beyond minimum 15 days with back injury.

Clayton KershawClayton Kershaw‘s stay on the disabled list will last well beyond the minimum 15 days.

The Dodgers announced that Kershaw, who is nursing inflammation in the teres major muscle of his back, consulted with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache following an MRI scan. Kershaw will be placed on a rehabilitation schedule that includes a submaximal throwing program for the next 2 to 3 weeks. He will then be re-evaluated by Dr. ElAttrache to determine when he can start throwing at increased velocity.

The timetable on when he might return to Major League competition will be determined when he is re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.

Earlier Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters in San Diego that Kershaw might need a rehabilitation start in the minor leagues before he can return. Now, that seems like a certainty. The minor league seasons begin Thursday, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Kershaw to pitch in a rehab game.

Kershaw has never been on the disabled list in his career. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who took Kershaw’s turn in the rotation Sunday in San Diego, is expected to start the Dodgers’ home opener Friday.

Clayton Kershaw to the disabled list, Jose Dominguez to Triple-A all but sets Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.

ANAHEIM — Clayton Kershaw played catch with Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte this afternoon. Each of his throws was a little bit farther than the one before, as Kershaw moved backward until he stood about 100 feet from Conte. One throw was interrupted by a magnitude-4.1 earthquake about 14 miles north of here. The 27th throw was his last. Here’s what it looked like:

Kershaw “felt something” in his upper left back on that throw according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, in the same teres major muscle that showed inflammation in an MRI exam Wednesday. The pain was enough to end Kershaw’s throwing session and earn him a spot on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 23.

“At that point, we knew he couldn’t go any farther,” Mattingly said.

Kershaw, who signed a seven-year, $215 million contract extension in January, allowed one run in his Opening Day start against the Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia. He has never been on the disabled list in his career.

The 26-year-old will be eligible to return from the DL as early as April 7. That’s an off-day for the Dodgers, who host the Detroit Tigers on April 8 and 9. Including the second of two games the Dodgers played in Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kershaw will only miss seven games.

There’s a possibility that Kershaw might be healthy enough to pitch sometime at home next weekend against the San Francisco Giants — at least, that Kershaw would try to be ready by then. But, as Mattingly said, “we have to save Clayton from Clayton.”

Can he only spend the minimum 15 days on the disabled list? Mattingly wouldn’t say.

Kershaw will take a day off from throwing Sunday, then try to resume throwing Monday when the Dodgers have an off-day workout at Petco Park in San Diego.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is expected to start the Dodgers’ home opener against the San Francisco Giants on Friday. Saturday’s start will go to either Josh Beckett — who is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list then — or Paul Maholm.

Ryu will also start tomorrow’s game in San Diego against the Padres. Zack Greinke starts Tuesday’s game and Dan Haren starts Wednesday.

Jose Dominguez was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday, essentially beating Chris Withrow — another hard-throwing right-hander — for the final spot in the Dodgers’ Opening Day bullpen.

That all but solidifies the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, barring any injuries today in their final Freeway Series game against the Angels:

Catchers (2)
A.J. Ellis
Drew Butera

Infielders (6)
Adrian Gonzalez
Dee Gordon
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Justin Turner
Chone Figgins

Outfielders (5)
Carl Crawford
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Mike Baxter
Scott Van Slyke

Pitchers (12)
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Zack Greinke
Dan Haren
Paul Maholm
Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
Chris Perez
J.P. Howell
Paco Rodriguez
Chris Withrow
Jamey Wright
Brandon League

Disabled List (3)
Clayton Kershaw
Matt Kemp
Josh Beckett

Hyun-Jin Ryu starts Sunday, Darnell Sweeney is an understated hero, and other postgame notes.

Darnell Sweeney

Dodgers prospect Darnell Sweeney is soaked with water and sports drink after hitting a single to center field in the 10th inning, scoring Trayvon Robinson and ending the game. The Dodgers defeated the Angels 5-4 in 10 innings. (John McCoy / Staff photographer)

Hyun-Jin Ryu will start for the Dodgers in San Diego on Sunday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after the Dodgers’ 5-4, 10-inning win over the Angels on Friday.

Ryu is already 1-0 with a 0.00 earned-run average after picking up the win last Sunday in Sydney, Australia. Ryu shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks for five innings before a toe injury caused him to come out of the game.

That injury has healed, Mattingly said, and Ryu will oppose Andrew Cashner at Petco Park in the Padres’ Opening Day game.

Clayton Kershaw was originally scheduled to start the game, but a back injury forced him to sit out. Kershaw might begin the season on the disabled list.

Ryu threw a bullpen session prior to Friday’s game and passed that preliminary test. Zack Greinke will pitch the second game of the series Tuesday against Ian Kennedy and Dan Haren will oppose Tyson Ross on Wednesday.

Haren will also start the finale of the Freeway Series on Saturday, a game that’s scheduled to begin just after 6 p.m. at Angel Stadium.

As for Friday’s game, played before an announced crowd of 39,143 at Dodger Stadium and interrupted by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, the Dodgers nearly blew it.
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Clayton Kershaw throws, but he might begin the season on the disabled list.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw was scratched from Sunday’s start in San Diego. (Getty Images)

Don Mattingly wouldn’t say so directly — he treats injury timetables like state secrets these days — but the next few days are critically important for Clayton Kershaw.

First, the good news: Kershaw played catch Friday at Dodger Stadium for the first time since an MRI of his left upper back Wednesday showed inflammation of the teres major muscle. Kershaw didn’t speak to reporters, but Mattingly filled in the details of his conversation with the pitcher.

“I think in his mind that went really well,” Mattingly said. “He said he didn’t feel anything throwing. He wasn’t trying to throw 95 (mph) or anything. My next question was, ‘did you feel anything the other day?’ and he said ‘yes.’ That tells us he’s taken a little step forward. That doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point, but that means we continue on with the process moving forward. He’ll throw again tomorrow with a little more intensity and we’ll see how that goes.”
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San Diego Padres announce starting assignments for Dodgers’ first series in North America.

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black told reporters in Peoria, Arizona on Saturday that Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross will start in that order against the Dodgers for their season-opening series against the Dodgers at Petco Park.

Cashner will start Opening Day on Sunday, March 30, a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. Kennedy takes the ball on Tuesday, April 1 and Ross on Wednesday, April 2.

Also Saturday, the Padres learned that starter Josh Johnson will miss at least four weeks with a strained flexor muscle. Johnson wasn’t expected to start in the first series against the Dodgers.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said yesterday that Zack Greinke and Dan Haren will start two of the three Freeway Series games against the Angels, March 27-29. That rules both pitchers out for the March 30 and April 1 starts in San Diego. Expect Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu to get those assignments, with Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm serving as outside possibilities.