Dodgers fans can certainly craft a good argument for Clayton Kershaw making 2023's Opening Day start, especially as his durability wanes and each start he makes becomes more of an event.
The Opening Day festivities are mostly ceremonial, after all. It's a game you'd love to win, but no team's first starter is legally required to remain their ace through the campaign. Opening Day is about pomp, circumstance and, if possible, dominance. Kershaw remains the Dodgers' most bankable star on the mound, even as he's potentially been surpassed in performance (and panache) by Walker Buehler and Julio Urías in recent years.
If you're buying Dodgers tickets, though, you're probably hoping to see Kershaw. Maybe more than ever, considering every offseason the 35-year-old embarks on the same dance: "Retirement, LA or Texas?"
That's why Kershaw's deference this week came off so genuine. The proper baseball move is to start Urías, especially after he received so much ramp-up work in the World Baseball Classic (which Kershaw missed for nebulous insurance reasons). The younger left-hander is lined up for the start. The honor's all but officially been given to Urías.
As expected, Kershaw didn't put up a fuss. He was far more upset about missing the WBC. Opening Day? May the best man win, and Urías was better for longer in 2022.
Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw knows Julio Urías should (and will) start on Opening Day
Kershaw's full quote to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register laid it out plainly:
"I’m excited for Julio to get to do it. I think he’ll be great. I’m assuming Julio is gonna get to do it. I mean, he deserves it. I’m happy for Julio. It’s a special thing to get to do. I think it should be whoever pitched the best the year before, and he did that. So he deserves it."- Clayton Kershaw (via Bill Plunkett)
Kershaw may be underselling himself a bit, but he's doing so for all the right reasons: he wants Urías to feel good about being given an honor that typically would've been ticketed for the veteran, and that many fans probably feel was taken away from No. 22.
Last season, Kershaw earned himself another $20 million, one-year deal with the Dodgers by racking up 3.8 bWAR in 22 starts alongside a peak Kershaw-ian 2.28 ERA. That would've made him the No. 1 starter for most teams, but not this one. And after watching star after star join up and be accepted in Dodger Blue over the years, he's beyond alright with it.