Clayton Kershaw's first rehab start results couldn't come at a better time for ailing Dodgers

The Dodgers are one step closer to having their franchise icon back in the rotation
Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Dodgers
Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Dodgers / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Dodgers lost three key pieces of the puzzle in less than a week — Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Mookie Betts, and Walker Buehler all went onto the 15-day IL on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday respectively; Yamamoto with a strained rotator cuff, Betts with a fractured hand from an HBP, and Buehler with right hip inflammation, ostensibly because he took a line drive to the hip, but also to also to reset after eight bad starts since coming back from Tommy John.

Dodgers hitters have still been proving that they can win games despite the roster losses — they took two from Colorado on Monday and Tuesday — but those absences still leave a lot of question marks around how sustainable this success is and how the Dodgers are going to attack the trade deadline.

One glimmer of hope among all the bad news: Clayton Kershaw continues to make good progress toward a big league return. His progression from a shoulder surgery last November has been refreshingly, shockingly smooth, and he's seemed way ahead of schedule since the early months of the season.

Kershaw made his first rehab start in Single-A with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Wednesday and fared well, giving Dodgers fans something to smile about despite all of the bad injury news.

Clayton Kershaw's first rehab start in Single-A was a bright spot in a rough week for Dodgers

Kershaw, who last threw a pitch in the majors on Oct. 7 last year in a now-infamous blowup postseason start against the Diamondbacks, took it easy during his first rehab start, pitching just three innings for the Quakes. Still, he only allowed two hits while allowing just one earned run and one walk while striking out five batters and throwing 26 strikes out of 36 pitches (and picking off a runner at first). Even that legendary curveball came out to play to end the third and to send Kershaw off the field with a standing ovation from one of the biggest crowds the Quakes has seen.

When Kershaw is able to return to the big league team, which is still very much to be determined, he'll bring the depleted rotation back up to five men. The loss of Buehler, despite his struggles since his own return, was bad news for a Dodgers rotation that's been angling for a six-man approach to give Yamamoto and some of their more injury-prone pitchers longer sits between starts.

Even when Kershaw is back, it's likely that LA will want to space out of his outings consciously so as not to stretch him thin directly off of months of game inactivity, and the bullpen's workload is still bound to increase.

Still, Kershaw looking like himself even in Single-A is a great sign for the Dodgers, and it provides a lot of hope for how the second half of the season will look despite Yamamoto, Betts, and Buehler's absences.