SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Four games into the Cactus League season is too early to panic about Clayton Kershaw’s dissatisfaction with the way he feels throwing pitches in practice, but he could quickly approach the point of needing to adjust his schedule enough to affect his plans for a ninth consecutive Opening Day start.
“We have so much depth in our pitching,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday, a day after an abbreviated throwing session for the left-handed ace because of a sore left shoulder. “I haven’t put any thought into Opening Day outside of Clayton.”
Kershaw is taking a couple of days off from any throwing, and the plan is to hope he feels better when he throws again.
“Right now, the main thought for us is see how he feels Thursday and then we can set out a schedule at that point,” Roberts said. “Right now, we feel good about what we’re doing as a staff, as an organization, and we’ll go from there.”
Kershaw has earned seven consecutive All-Star selections, three National League Cy Young Awards, and an NL Most Valuable Player Award. He’s started 30 or more games and thrown 200 or more innings in five seasons, and he’s got 25 complete games under his belt while tallying 153 wins and posting a career ERA of 2.39. He led the league in strikeouts three times -- including notching 301 in 2015.
With his durability off a tick or two over the past few seasons, it’s easy to imagine some frustration on Kershaw’s part after starting his spring so differently than he sketched it out over the winter.
“He’s as tough mentally of a player that I’ve ever been around,” Roberts said. “He prepares better than anybody. So he’s handling it as best as anyone could handle this situation.”
Kershaw hasn’t commented publicly since stepping back on Monday and telling Roberts he didn’t like the way the ball was coming out of his hand. Roberts is reluctant to characterize what Kershaw is thinking about the early struggles.
“He’s put in so much work -- and when you start Spring Training, he wants to be out there," Roberts said. “However you want to categorize it, that’s probably what he’s feeling. No one takes care of himself better than he does. We’ll wait until Thursday and see how he is.”
The Dodgers’ depth on the hill is evidenced by having at least seven pitchers they could pencil into a starting rotation to open the season. Behind Kershaw are Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda (who threw a scoreless inning and struck out two in his first start Tuesday), Ross Stripling and Julio Urias.
“He absolutely is our guy and will continue to be our guy,” Roberts said of Kershaw before Tuesday’s tilt with the Royals. “Right now, it just doesn’t make any sense to get too far ahead of things. I’m really not trying to get too much into overthinking it, really.”