The Los Angeles Dodgers, having won their 10th division title in 11 years and remaining the envy of the rest of baseball, aren't exactly riding high entering the postseason.
Their offense might be humming and just as deep as the juggernaut they put forth in 2022. But the rotation is a relative mess, and even the Hall of Fame lefty atop it hasn't provided much confidence lately (and might not believe in himself).
In a revealing interview with Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic earlier this week, Kershaw described himself as a "shell," and semi-seriously claimed he was part of an "open competition" behind Bobby Miller to earn a postseason roster spot.
Ardaya appeared on FanSided's Baseball Insiders podcast this week to go a bit deeper on Kershaw's worrisome comments, describing what he was referring to in both the short-term (October's coming...) and long distance. Could 2023 really be the end of the line for the Great One? Everything's on the table if his body continues to not cooperate/restrict velocity.
"I think he has to take some time after this season to evaluate things, see where he's at health-wise. The biggest thing that was underlying his comments was [that he's] not feeling 100% physically," Ardaya noted. "Everyone around the Dodgers, including Kershaw himself, will say he physically feels fine, but he's obviously still dealing with the remnants of that shoulder injury that cost him some time in the middle of the season."
"The velocity, when he first came off the IL, was pretty much what it was before [in 2023], but it's dropped drastically since then. He hasn't thrown a pitch above 90 MPH his last two starts. The command hasn't quite been there, though it was a little bit better his last start in Seattle. But I think that's the biggest thing. He has to make sure that his stuff, and where he's at physically right now, is good enough to compete in October."
As for Kershaw's self-deprecation about being in a class below Miller?
"He's gonna be on the postseason roster, as long as he's healthy enough to pitch. That's the biggest thing," Ardaya assured. "But at the end of the season, there are a lot of different factors where he could take a step back health-wise and sort of evaluate what he wants to do going forward. And I think he sort of prefers it that way, going year-to-year, contract-wise, trying to make a decision on where he wants to be."
Dodgers beat writer Fabian Ardaya opens up on Clayton Kershaw
Now that Kershaw seems worried about his own fragility, is staying active but leaving LA off the table? Should Texas Rangers fans turn off the podcast or keep listening?
"I think there is, obviously, a chance [he'd choose the Rangers]," Ardaya continued. "He has a great relationship with Chris Young and it goes beyond baseball. [Young] wouldn't be the reason why he signs with Texas, but it would be an added bonus to be alongside someone who was an offseason catch partner, someone who he has a good relationship with."
"But, I think, no matter what, LA's gonna get the first call. So if he comes back next year, I'd be surprised if it's not in a Dodger uniform," he concluded.
First step? Getting back to feeling like himself and getting back to business. Anybody who penciled in Kershaw for a Game 1 playoff start might want to grab the eraser.
But, if he snaps back into form and begins a run for the ages in October, at least the Dodgers can be assured they'll get the first crack at his year-to-year free agency yet again.
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