Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw Set to Return at the Perfect Time

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images) /
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After making his second and final rehab start last night for the Tulsa Drillers, Clayton Kershaw is set to return to the Dodgers at the perfect time.

Dodger fans have grown accustomed to Clayton Kershaw playing superman man for the Dodgers over the last decade.  Whether it’s stopping a regular season losing streak, eating innings when the bullpen is overworked, or pitching out of the pen to close out a playoff series, Kershaw has been there to save the day when he is needed more times than not.

Clayton pitched six innings for the Tulsa Drillers last night striking out six batters while allowing two runs and five hits.  The two runs came on two solo home runs.  Various reports had his velocity around 88-90 miles per hour while touching 92 once.  In his first rehab outing with the OKC Dodgers, he went 4 1/3 innings while two runs with six strikeouts.

The Dodgers began the season without Rich Hill and Kershaw but had plenty of starting pitching depth to stay above water until they returned.  That boat started taking on water as Hyun-Jin Ryu departed Monday’s game early with another left groin injury.  Now just as he is needed, Clayton is going to return at the perfect time and start Sunday or Monday.

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While another starter like Dennis Santana or Tony Gonsolin could’ve been plugged into the rotation if Kershaw was not ready, the rotation is a bit lean on innings with Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, and Walker Buehler not eating many innings.  That is one area where the loss of Ryu is a big hit since he could usually give the Dodgers six innings if not seven,

The bullpen has seen plenty of work so far between short outings, injuries, and extra innings so the return of Kershaw gives the Dodgers a workhorse that can go out there and pitch six or seven innings on average.  While some may question how dominate Clayton still is, there is no doubting his ability to lighten the bullpen’s workload.

Kershaw’s return went from a luxury to a necessity with the loss of Ryu and Hill from the rotation.  It will be worth watching how effective Clayton can be as he continues to lose velocity, and how he adjusts to that diminished velocity.  In recent seasons he has thrown his fastball less, which figures to be how he will attack batters again in 2019.

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As long as the rotation stays healthy the next big return will be Rich Hill’s which will help preserve Julio Urias until the late parts of the season and the postseason.  With Urias on an innings limit, the Dodgers want to make sure once they stick him back into the rotation he can start the rest of the way with no stops.