The Los Angeles Dodgers are gearing up for a deep postseason run this MLB season, and they will soon get an important piece back in the rotation via Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw, who has been out since leaving his start on July 23 with back pain, tossed a four-inning simulated game on Monday.
Dodgers team-mates Chase Utley and Kike Hernandez took some swings against seven-time All-Star Kershaw.
"He's getting close," manager Dave Roberts said, via MLB.com. "There's zero chance [of Kershaw starting for the Dodgers on Saturday instead].
"There's a level of intensity that continues to heighten, from bullpen to simulated game to Triple-A where you're competing. You continue to ramp up as far as intensity, and crossing that marker makes everyone feel better."
Kershaw - a three-time National League (NL) Cy Young Award winner and Triple Crown recipient - was an incredible 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA this season before his injury.
The Dodgers then added Yu Darvish before the July 31 trade deadline, but he too is sidelined with an injury.
While 2014 NL MVP and Gold Glove winner Kershaw understands the team's reason for being cautious with his return, the 29-year-old said he was ready to return over a week ago.
"Health-wise, I could have pitched in the big leagues 10 days ago. But that's not the plan, obviously," Kershaw said. "I don't feel I missed much time. I kept throwing all the way through. I guess it's the luxury we have as a team.
"You can't simulate a Major League game. You've just got to do it. Sim games are really hard. You try to create intensity, but you can't and it's really not a good recipe, but I guess it's what you have to do."
Roberts said Kershaw will make a rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. If all things go well, he will then return to the rotation.