Dodgers Notes: Clayton Kershaw faces live hitters for first time since back injury

LOS ANGELES — Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw isn’t always expansive in his postgame interviews. Facing live batters Wednesday for the first time in more than a month, he took the concept of a “simulated game” to heart.

After throwing two innings against teammates Chase Utley, Rob Segedin and Joc Pederson, Kershaw glided past a group of reporters in the third-base dugout at Dodger Stadium. He turned his head, briefly.

“Everything is great,” Kershaw said. “I feel good. I’ve got another sim game in five days.”

With that, Kershaw let out a primal “woo!” and continued his glide down the steps into the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

Kershaw’s last pitch to a live batter was July 23 against Atlanta, an outing that ended after two innings due to a strained muscle in his lower back. These two innings went more smoothly.

Segedin made the cleanest contact of any batter, lofting a low fly ball to left-center field. Kershaw recorded a couple strikeouts, or he would have if catcher Yasmani Grandal had the same authority as an umpire. He threw 38 pitches in all.

“Execution wasn’t I think where Clayton might have wanted,” Manager Dave Roberts said, “but it was good.”

Roberts watched Kershaw’s simulated game on the field along with Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, and head athletic trainer Neil Rampe. Unless Kershaw is in Pittsburgh, Roberts won’t be able to watch the next simulated game in person. That outing will last three innings and 45 pitches, Roberts said.

Kershaw, 15-2 with a 2.04 earned-run average, is expected back with the Dodgers on or around Sept. 1.

LINEUP SHUFFLE

In his 332nd career game, Kiké Hernandez took a rare turn as the Dodgers’ cleanup hitter. It’s only the third time he has occupied that position in the batting order. All three games have come this season.

The reason was two-fold. Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers’ usual cleanup hitter, was not in the starting lineup for the first time since July 6. To Roberts, Hernandez was the most logical replacement. He hit two home runs against Carlos Rodon, Wednesday’s starting pitcher, back on July 19 in Chicago.

Rob Segedin made his return to the Dodgers’ lineup as the number-8 hitter. He followed Logan Forsythe, Austin Barnes and Yasiel Puig respectively against the left-handed Rodon.

HAWKINS PASSES AWAY

Tommy Hawkins, who worked as vice president of communications during a career in the Dodgers’ front office from 1987 to 2004, died on Wednesday morning. He was 80.

An original member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Hawkins died in his sleep at home in Malibu, his son Kevin told The Associated Press.

INJURY UPDATES

Adrian Gonzalez played his final minor league rehabilitation game with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. He got the start at first base, and Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier started in left field, against the Stockton Ports.

Gonzalez will be the Dodgers’ designated hitter during one of the three games against the Detroit Tigers, Roberts said. Gonzalez, 35, had a .255 batting average with one home run and 23 RBI in 49 games with the Dodgers before he was placed on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back.

Pitcher Grant Dayton will begin a rehab assignment in the coming days, Roberts said. The left-hander is expected to make about five rehab appearances before he returns, Roberts said, including stints with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

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