Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw has declared himself ready to make his return, but the team is taking the safe route and sending their stud lefty to double-A Chattanooga for what should be one quick rehab start on Wednesday. Kershaw already has one rehab start under his belt, but the Dodgers rotation has done a noteworthy job without him due to big contributions from Josh Beckett and Dan Haren on the back end. L.A. is struggling a bit of late, but this is a team with World Series aspirations, and knows that the only way to get that done is with a healthy Kershaw in October.
Kershaw’s strained back muscle is an injury that can either linger or resurface, so it is no surprise that the Dodgers are playing things cautiously. The team is just 1.5 games out of first place despite the recent skid, losing five of the past seven games, all at home. Also, including the playoffs Kershaw pitched a whopping 259 innings last year, so this little time off should save a few miles on his arm for later in the season. With the Tommy John epidemic running rampant across baseball, the Dodgers are very smart to play it safe with their indispensable pitcher.
The main reason why the Dodgers may be having Kershaw wait one more game is so he can work his pitch count back to where it needs to be. In his first rehab start with single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Kershaw threw only 56 pitches. Manager Don Mattingly noted that it would be beneficial for him to take another game to work himself back up, and the club is tentatively expecting him to throw around 90 pitches on Wednesday. Other factors may be that the Dodgers are currently up in Minneapolis playing the Twins. If Kershaw were to make this start in the majors, it would be in a brutally cold atmosphere where the Dodgers game actually got snowed out on Tuesday. It is not worth them to take any risk, no matter how slight, and have Kershaw risk re-injuring his back in the frigid weather.
The best part of all this for Dodgers fans is that Kershaw has stated adamantly that he is 100 percent healthy and ready to go. He was hoping this start would be the one where he makes his return, but he understands the process and knows that he means too much to this team to risk losing. The organization would be doomed should they choose to bring him back to soon and have him get injured worse.
However Kershaw’s rehab start goes is irrelevant as long as he can comfortably get his pitch count up to his typical level. Kershaw is an innings eater, and one more start to get him up to 90 pitches may not be what Kershaw wants, but it is best for the team. The Dodgers are holding things together in the meantime and are due for a significant boost when he comes back. Dodgers fans may be getting jittery, but have no fear. Kershaw is coming.
Commentary by Justin Hussong, Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox