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Dodgers' Kershaw throws simulated game on comeback trail from back problem

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LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw was back on the Dodger Stadium mound Sunday — in a simulated game that was the next step in his recovery from a strained muscle in his upper back.

"Everything felt good, so that's a good step," The two-time Cy Young Award winner said following a 30-minute workout that was preceded by a brief bullpen session. "Hitters were kind of the next progression, so it was good to get some hitters in there and get some reactions. You get that little extra adrenaline with hitters in there."

Kershaw, who is on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career, threw 50 pitches from the windup and stretch, and reported no discomfort after topping out at 90 mph.

"Obviously, you can't simulate the adrenaline you have in a big league game, because that's where you get your extra velocity and stuff from. But as far as pitching at 10 a.m. in a sim game, that's all I've got," said Kershaw, who was monitored by manager Don Mattingly, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Stan Conte, the team's vice president of medical services.

The 26-year-old left-hander, who led the majors in ERA in each of the previous three seasons, hasn't pitched since beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 in the season opener in Australia. He injured himself tossing on the side a few days later.

"All that still kind of feels gone, so I feel pretty normal," he said. "Now it's just a matter of building back up and getting ready to go. I assume (a rehab assignment) would probably be the next step, but I don't think we've gotten there yet. We're kind of waiting to see how I come out of it tomorrow."

A.J. Ellis caught him. Ellis underwent arthroscopic surgery on April 8 to repair the medial meniscus in his left knee, an injury occurred three days earlier when he took a bad step rounding third base.

"I think there was some very, very small rust in the way he threw, but he looked great and he was throwing everything," Ellis said. "His warmup was very comparable to how he'd warm up coming into a regular start. And having the hitters in there was a good addition for him because of the added adrenaline and intensity. He worked through some counts today, and I think that was important for him."

Ellis hasn't come close to running the bases or doing any agility work. He will try it this week before the training staff re-evaluates him.

"I feel like I'm a hundred percent, baseball activity-wise. But I haven't thrown to the bases yet, so that's another thing we're going to have to do this week," he said. "I caught some balls yesterday in the batting cage off the machine and kind of lobbied my way into warming Clayton up today. Then I lobbied a little further and caught him during his entire workout."

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