Kershaw's biggest decision yet ended with a return to LA

February 9th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz -- Despite the fanfare of a successful offseason, it was always going to feel strange to not have around Camelback Ranch when pitchers and catchers reported to work on Thursday.

But after agreeing on a one-year deal that includes a player option for the 2025 season earlier this week, which became official on Friday, Kershaw was back in a Dodgers uniform for a 17th season.

“It was a good offseason to kind of be home, talk with Ellen and try to figure everything out,” Kershaw said. “Once I decided to come back, everybody has been great. I felt wanted even though I’m kind of damaged goods right now. It was a good feeling.”

Bringing Kershaw back into the Dodgers’ arms this season wasn’t always as simple as it appeared to be.

After the 2023 season came to a disappointing end in the National League Division Series, Kershaw knew it would be the start of a pivotal offseason in his career.

Kershaw took a few weeks off to spend time with his family before making any decisions. Once he finally sat down with his wife and his kids, the left-hander had plenty of decisions to make -- for the first time in while.

“I really never made a big decision in my life,” Kershaw said. “I got drafted by the Dodgers. I married the same girl from high school. I didn’t have many decisions to make along the way. This was really kind of the first offseason where I had some choices to make -- and it wasn’t easy. But I feel really good about it now.”

The first conversation was centered around whether or not he would undergo surgery to repair the gleno-humeral ligaments and capsule in his left shoulder. Kershaw, who had gone his entire career without undergoing any type of arm surgery, began to ask questions.

“I asked, 'Can I still throw BP if I don’t get the surgery? [Can I] play catch with my kids?'” Kershaw said. “I could have done all that. I just don’t think I could have thrown hard. So all of that weighed in.”

As he decided he wanted to return for a 17th season, Kershaw underwent surgery in November. Before that decision, however, Kershaw acknowledged that thoughts about retiring hung heavy for the first time in his career. On the other hand, the idea of staying home and signing with the Rangers loomed as well.

“Not as quick as I thought,” Kershaw said, when asked how quickly he made a decision to return. “Once we started gathering more information, realizing that surgery was probably the best option, it gave me a little bit of clarity with everything. Just decided to come back.”

Something that played a part in Kershaw’s decision was his start in Game 1 of the NLDS against the D-backs, where he gave up six runs and only recorded one out, effectively the worst start of his career. Wanting to be part of the Dodgers' “Super Team” also appealed to Kershaw.

“This offseason has been pretty amazing to watch, honestly. There’s definitely a part of me that wanted to be a part of that,” Kershaw said. “Winning an offseason doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a pretty good clubhouse of guys. The talent is probably the best I’ve ever been a part of. I’m hopeful that I can be a part of it, too.”

Kershaw won’t be able to make an impact on the mound in 2024 until at least sometime in July. For now, Kershaw will return home to Texas to spend more time with his family. He’ll be back at Camelback Ranch in March once he ramps up his throwing progression. He’ll also be at Dodger Stadium during homestands.

But even in an offseason that brought so much change, having Kershaw on the mound at Dodger Stadium will remain a constant.

“I’ve said it before, I don’t want to be average,” Kershaw said. “I don’t want just pitch to pitch. I want to be good. I want to contribute and be part of this. So yeah, my expectations are no concessions. Just be good.”