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05/23/08 11:15 PM ET

Kershaw callup appears imminent

Dodgers prospect could make debut as early as Sunday

LOS ANGELES -- Look for 20-year-old phenom Clayton Kershaw to make his next start his first as a Major Leaguer, perhaps as soon as Sunday.

Manager Joe Torre wasn't saying on Friday, but there were strong indications that the Dodgers will promote the left-hander from Double-A in the next few days.

The Dodgers need a fifth starter on Tuesday in Wrigley Field, but they also have considered having Kershaw debut in the friendlier environment of Dodger Stadium instead of the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field, where a hostile crowd and fickle weather could toughen the task.

By starting Kershaw on Sunday, the club could push the other starters back a day, specifically Chad Billingsley, who's scheduled to start on Sunday and who had has back-to-back seven-inning starts, and Hiroki Kuroda, who pitched eight innings in his last start.

Speculation of Kershaw's pending promotion heated up Thursday night when Kershaw started for Double-A Jacksonville, retired the only three batters he faced (two on strikeouts), then was removed. That will serve as a typical bullpen session before a Sunday start.

Beginning with Tuesday's game in Chicago, the Dodgers will need a fifth starter on almost a traditional five-day cycle through the All-Star break.

Kershaw's irregular use this year has been orchestrated by management to preserve his 20-year-old left arm for October, said Torre, who shrugged off the possibility that it would have a negative effect on Kershaw's development.

"It's something he has to deal with," said Torre. "I'm not sure it's a hindrance. He's been made aware of the plan. When he left here [at the end of March], we talked about it."

Kershaw, a first-round pick in 2006, jumped onto the Major League radar during a stunning Spring Training. Brought over from Minor League camp March 9, Kershaw allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in an exhibition game and didn't allow another run in 14 innings, striking out 19 with three walks.

But management sent Kershaw back to Double-A Jacksonville anyway, with a mandate that he pitch no more than 25 innings a month to ration his arm for a possible pennant-stretch role in Los Angeles. He has pitched only 11 innings since May 2.

Kershaw's promotion would necessitate the removal of a pitcher from the 25-man roster.

In other pitching news, Jason Schmidt is scheduled for his third Minor League rehab start Monday night for Inland Empire. And disabled pitcher Esteban Loaiza said he felt fine after a Friday bullpen session and is scheduled to pitch for Las Vegas on Monday in a Minor League rehab start.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.