Kershaw, who exited Friday’s night’s game in the second inning with left forearm discomfort, was officially placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday, with right-hander Mitch White recalled in a corresponding move. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw will undergo further testing on Monday, but the team is operating as if Kershaw is out for the rest of 2021.
“I think right now where we’re at, we’re going to proceed with that mindset,” Roberts said. “I’m certainly saddened, hoping we never had to get to this point. You know, you want to be certainly very thoughtful and sensitive to Clayton, but in the same breath, still kind of making sure we stay focused on moving forward. That’s kind of where we’re all at.”
The injury to Kershaw occurred after he allowed an RBI double to Kolten Wong in the second inning. Roberts and a trainer immediately came out to check on him. Following a lengthy conversation on the mound, Kershaw was removed from the game after throwing just 42 pitches.
Kershaw, who was making his fourth start back after missing nearly three months with a left forearm injury, didn’t look sharp prior to his exit. The Brewers had jumped out to a 3-1 lead and five of the 10 batters Kershaw faced had a batted ball with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher. Roberts said he saw Kershaw grimacing a few pitches before he ultimately decided to come out of the dugout.
The left-hander’s pitch prior to the injury was a 89.1 mph four-seam fastball, lower than his average. It’s unknown if there was any correlation between Kershaw’s injury and the struggles he was going through on the mound Friday.
But Kershaw said that once he threw the last slider to Wong in the second inning, he knew that he had thrown his last pitch of the night. The veteran, who underwent testing on Saturday, also made it sound like his season will be over.
“It’s a tough blow, obviously,” Kershaw said. “Kinda the same thing I’ve been dealing with and [it] just got bad enough to where I couldn’t keep going tonight. Haven’t quite wrapped my head around that yet. The biggest thing was I just wanted to be a part of this team through October. That’s the hardest part for me right now, just knowing that chances are that it’s not looking good for October right now. … I’m excited for these guys to do what they’re gonna do in October.”
Seeing Kershaw walk off the mound with the injury was a huge gut punch to the Dodger Stadium crowd, which responded by giving him a standing ovation. During the pitching change, Dodgers players gathered on the field clearly in shock.
“That was definitely a tough one,” said second baseman Trea Turner. “You never want to see one of your guys do down, especially an unbelievable teammate like him. I haven’t known him for a long, long time, but I can already see why he’s a leader in this clubhouse and why he’s had a great career and why he’s going to continue to be a big part of our team, whether he’s on the field or in the dugout. He’s special.”
Kershaw, who is a free agent at the end of the season, took the mound on Friday for his last start of the regular season. Given that Kershaw wouldn’t be slated to pitch if the Dodgers are in the National League Wild Card Game next Wednesday against the Cardinals, there’s the possibility that Kershaw made his final regular-season start at Dodger Stadium as a member of the Dodgers. While it served as a symbolic moment that represented the toughness he’s shown over the years, Kershaw said that he didn’t purposely hold onto the ball as he exited the game, instead saying it was “probably shock” during the moment.
After the game, Kershaw was asked about his future.
“My future is going to take care of itself,” Kershaw responded. “I’m not really worried about that right now. I really wanted to be a part of the moment right now and I wanted to be with this group through October. That was my only focus this whole year once I got hurt, it was to come back and make it up for this month. As far as anything else goes, I haven’t wrapped my head around it and I don’t plan to anytime soon.”
While Kershaw’s future will be something the Dodgers have to figure out in the offseason, the reality is that L.A. will immediately shift its focus into piecing how they’ll replace the likely future Hall of Famer in the starting rotation during the postseason.
The Dodgers were initially thinking of deploying Julio Urías in the same role as last year’s World Series run. Urías would start some games, but he would’ve also been used as a multi-inning reliever. With Kershaw out, the Dodgers will now have to shift and ask Urías to be a full-time starter, along with Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer.
“I think now, clearly, it puts him starting a playoff game,” Roberts said.
Tony Gonsolin could also be an option for the Dodgers, but the right-hander hasn’t been as sharp this season and could be better used as a multi-inning reliever. There’s also the possibility that Gonsolin serves as the bulk guy in a bullpen game.
Those are some of the questions the Dodgers will have to decide once they know their path in the playoffs. But one thing is clear: They’ll enter the postseason without Kershaw on the active roster for the first time since the 2006 NL Division Series against the Mets.