Clayton Kershaw has proven over the years to be one of the best pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball, but this spring training has not been one to remember for the Dodgers ace. Kershaw had announced that he was going to take a step back from throwing for now, in a situation that has some Dodgers fans worried about the upcoming season. Just how concerned should the Dodgers faithful be after the latest setback?
The short answer to this question is not very concerned. Kershaw said that he didn’t feel great after playing catch during spring training activities, which is never something that you want to hear from a key player. But manager Dave Roberts had attributed the situation to shoulder inflammation, which hopefully is not something that will have a long-term impact on him from a structural standpoint.
In the short term, Kershaw’s absence could be an inconvenience for the Dodgers, who are hoping to get to a third-straight World Series this year. If he was to miss some starts early in the season, it could put the rest of the starting rotation into a tougher spot, which could strain the bullpen in the cruel game of dominoes known as managing a pitching staff. But, the important thing for the Dodgers is having Kershaw ready for another playoff run.
Kershaw has earned a reputation for not being a great postseason pitcher, with an ERA of 4.32 in his playoff career. A lot of that reputation has to do with the high expectations he sets by pitching so well during the regular season. But given how long the MLB season is, it might not be the worst thing to have Kershaw get some rest in April to have a fresher ace in October.
Given how dangerous the Dodgers line-up is offensively, the team might be able to afford to give Kershaw some rest anyway. They were one of just five teams to score 800 or more runs in 2018 and averaged over 10 runs per game in their first three spring training games of 2019. They didn’t land Bryce Harper, but they might not need him with how potent their lineup already is.
With or without Kershaw at the start of the season, the Dodgers are the favorites to win the National League once again. Most MLB picks see them taking on either the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, or New York Yankees in the World Series. The important thing for the Dodgers this season will be whether or not Kershaw is healthy and pitching well at the end of the season, not the beginning.