On Aug. 4, Clayton Kershaw left his start against the San Francisco Giants early. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace removed himself from the game after feeling discomfort in his back during his warmups in the fifth inning.
Just two days after the trade deadline, that had some alarm bells sounding because Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman didn’t acquire any starting pitching despite Kershaw’s shaky health these last few years, Andrew Heaney’s injury troubles in 2022, and Walker Buehler/Dustin May still being on the mend from elbow issues.
Turns out, it doesn’t matter in the interim. The Dodger remain hot and swept the Giants and Padres despite being a bit undermanned in the pitching department.
But for the long haul? This is a serious problem. Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw is expected to miss 2-4 weeks … but then what lingering effects will he have to deal with upon his return, then into the postseason?
Additionally, it appeared as if the Dodgers were open to being flexible with Buehler when he’s ready to pitch again, with Friedman not ruling out a bullpen role for the right-hander. Can they really afford to consider that plan now, though?
Clayton Kershaw’s injury could change the Dodgers’ plans for Walker Buehler and Dustin May
As much as Dodgers fans like Ryan Pepiot, the young righty isn’t a postseason starter at the moment. In the meantime, he’ll likely take Kershaw’s roster spot, but there needs to be some sort of longer-term plan for the postseason, in the event the veteran’s back issue persists (which it kind of has for years now).
Additionally, Friedman only added reliever Chris Martin at the deadline to help out LA’s bullpen, which indicates his plan to bring Buehler (and possibly May) back as relievers had some truth to it. Now? There might have to be a trade-off here, with one going to the ‘pen and one going to the rotation. As good as Heaney, Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin have been, having two of those three start playoff games may not sit well with many fans, due to their lack of experience in October.
Not to get on Kershaw’s case since he’s one of the best ever … but he hasn’t made more than 28 starts in a season since 2015. Even during his stellar, shortened 2020, he dealt with back issues in the postseason that drastically affected his usage and could’ve very well derailed the Dodgers’ World Series run had others not stepped up.
Then you have last year, which was his worst career season (still very good, though!) that ended early due to an elbow issue. Kershaw should be viewed as a luxury, not as a reliable pillar. The sooner the Dodgers realize that, the sooner they can adjust their plans and better prep for October.