Dodgers injury updates: Bobby Miller, Clayton Kershaw progress but Max Muncy has setback

There was a mixed bag of news on the injury front regarding three key Dodgers over the weekend.

Young right-hander Bobby Miller raised some eyebrows with a velocity drop in his second minor league rehabilitation start, third baseman Max Muncy confirmed a setback in his recovery from a right rib-cage strain, and veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw took the first significant step in his recovery from offseason shoulder injury.

Miller, out since April 13 because of shoulder inflammation, gave up four earned runs and five hits in 3 ⅓ innings with no strikeouts and one walk in his second rehab start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga at Lake Elsinore on Saturday night.

Miller reached his workload target, throwing 65 pitches, 38 for strikes, but the velocity of his four-seam fastball, which averaged 98.3 mph in his first three starts for the Dodgers this season, fell to 95-97 mph, which is “a couple miles per hour lower than what is typical for Bobby,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Yet Miller, 25, said before Sunday’s game against the Colorado Rockies that he felt fine physically.

“I don’t know why there was a little bit of a velocity drop,” Miller said. “It could have just been an adrenaline thing. There was not much adrenaline at all. … I felt fine. I feel ready. I mean, leading up to [Saturday], everything felt really locked in and the velo was there. I don’t know why it wasn’t [Saturday]. It could have just been mechanics.”

Roberts had not talked to Miller before meeting with reporters Sunday morning, but he said he was told by athletic trainer Thomas Albert that Miller’s velocity dip “had nothing to do with health. So for me … I don’t think it was too concerning.”

Miller, who went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts before going on the injured list, is scheduled to make at least one more rehab start, for triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday, with a target of 80 pitches and six innings.

“I just want execution on every one of my pitches,” Miller said. “The command of my off-speed pitches wasn’t very good [on Saturday]. I know my velocity will be there, so I’m not worried about that.”

Muncy, who was batting .223 with a .798 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, nine homers and 28 RBIs in 40 games when he went on the injured list May 17, sounded more discouraged about his immediate outlook.

The slugger needed only two weeks to recover from a similar oblique strain in 2021 and thought he’d return for a three-game series in New York against the Mets last week.

But Muncy said he felt a “twinge” in his rib cage while taking batting practice in Arizona during the Dodgers’ last trip and has been shut down indefinitely from most baseball activities.

“It felt great. It felt normal. I was taking ground balls and throwing across the infield and didn’t feel a thing, so we progressed to swinging,” Muncy said Sunday. “I had two good days of full batting practice, where I didn’t feel anything at all. And then the third day, it flared up. It’s one of those things where my body was telling me to slow things down.”

To say Muncy is frustrated with the setback would be an understatement.

“We’re just sitting here,” Muncy said. “I don’t think anybody has a timetable, because we can’t really put one on it. [An oblique strain] is probably the worst injury you can have as a position player because you can’t do anything.

“You can’t strengthen it. You can’t strengthen the area around it. You can’t do anything with the rest of your body because you have to involve your core to do that. You have to just sit and let it heal, and that’s where we’re at.”

The outlook for Kershaw seemed more encouraging after the 36-year-old’s fastball touched 88 mph during a 20-pitch simulated inning in which he faced three batters Saturday, a workout that Kershaw likened to “basically the first step of spring training.”

Kershaw will throw a two-inning simulated game with Rancho Cucamonga later this week while the Dodgers are on the road. If he follows a normal six-week spring training progression without setback, he could return in mid-July.

“Right now, we’re way ahead of schedule, which is really encouraging,” Roberts said. “He came out of it feeling good, feeling strong. There was no tentativeness. I didn’t see him guarding anything. He felt free and easy.”

Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 NL most valuable player, threw all three of his pitches — fastball, slider, curve — on Saturday, the first time he faced hitters in his rehab.

“The shoulder feels healthy, now it’s just a matter of building the pitches back up and getting ready to go,” Kershaw said. “From here, it’s like a spring training. Build up an inning every five or six days or so and see where we’re at.”

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