Los Angeles Dodgers future Hall of Fame lefty Clayton Kershaw doesn't get challenged very often -- but when he does, he remembers it.
Despite tripping past his 35th birthday (where does the time go?), Kershaw's regression has yet to materialize. Ironically, a long-term commitment to the left-hander would've been a rare contract "win" for an aging pitcher ... and yet Kershaw decided he'd rather go year-to-year to dictate his own future.
At least the Dodgers have reaped the annual rewards of Kershaw's growth. In the midst of year 16, the great Kershaw is still seeking his 100th career loss. He's nine short. Might not even happen this season; he's followed up a 2.28 ERA with a 2.98 mark this season. Who cares if he's no longer a 30-start hurler? He's going to give you 20-25 of the best starts possible, and you're going to appreciate them.
So what can a batter possibly give to the pitcher who has everything? Apparently, there are at least five hitters who Kershaw claims give him fits. Not sure if we believe it, but that's what he said on Mookie Betts' podcast "On Base w/ Mookie Betts" this week.
When asked for his "five toughest at-bats," Kershaw named a pair of Cardinals in Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt -- and "being annoying" and "being Cardinals" certainly go hand-in-hand across generations. Also on Kershaw's list? Dexter Fowler, Manny Machado, and ... a mish-mash of fifth options, ranging from platoon bats like Austin Slater and Wilmer Flores to Fernando Tatis Jr.
When discussing Machado, Kershaw praised his baseball sense while dropping this little nugget: "Manny, when he wants to, can kind of hit whatever." Damning with faint praise, or ...?
Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw thinks Manny Machado is one of his toughest at-bats...when he tries
Probably ... what he meant ... was that Machado can dictate an at-bat in multiple directions. Need a walk? He can be eagle-eyed. Need to move the runners up? Sure. Need power? His eyes just popped.
It was, though, phrased in a way to open up skepticism about a long-time Dodgers enemy.
Kershaw isn't the type to give a purposeless interview. Just ask Joe Posnanski, who detailed the lefty's strict propensity for five-minute interviews in The Baseball 100 . If he says something, in conversation with Betts or with the gathered media, he means it. Hopefully, this cryptic nugget helps him get into Machado's head the next time he's forced to stare him down.