Could Kershaw still start Opening Day?

Recovering from shoulder inflammation, southpaw throws 38-pitch bullpen session on Sunday

March 17th, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- continued his long shot race to Opening Day on Sunday by throwing a 38-pitch bullpen session.

Kershaw, set back three weeks with left shoulder inflammation, threw all of his pitches in the session. If he comes out healthy, he would likely rest two days, then pitch live batting practice on Wednesday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Kershaw could throw a bullpen session two days after that.

“That would be my hope. Other people have other opinions, but that would be my hope,” Kershaw said. “It’s always a bit of a healthy argument, but it’s been good. We have a good plan, and just the next step.”

Conceivably on an accelerated timeline, Kershaw could pitch an inning in a Freeway Series game against the Angels and an inning or two on Opening Day March 28 against Arizona to extend his franchise-record streak of starting consecutive openers to nine.

Kershaw would not address Opening Day, but to make it, that would mean after arm and shoulder injuries the past two years, he would rush back from injury at the start of a three-year, $93 million contract. Suboptimal by most standards, but it is Kershaw and the Dodgers, so anything’s possible. Kershaw has said extending the record is important to him, but not at risking the season.

The more conservative alternative for the Dodgers would be for , scheduled to start Sunday’s Spring Training game against the Brewers, to draw the Opening Day assignment, with Kershaw methodically rebuilding his arm to return at full strength.

“I think Clayton is in a good place,” Roberts said. “He wants to be healthy and knows he can really help us when he’s healthy and knows what it takes to get healthy and to pitch when that time comes. Does he want to be healthy and active and not having this conversation? Absolutely. But I think he’s in a really good place."

Part of the equation is that, like Kershaw, hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch this spring because of right shoulder tenderness. He is ahead of Kershaw in his rehab and is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Tuesday with three innings.

For his part, Roberts concedes that the depth of starters in camp -- , , , , Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin -- is reason enough not to hit the panic button.

“For us as an organization, we do a very good job taking the long view and expecting to play through October,” Roberts said. “To have the depth that we have certainly makes it a lot easier to bear. You lose any of our guys for a length of time, and in Clayton’s case specifically, we’ve done it before where we’ve had to keep going without him, and that’s very difficult to do.

“Having done it before makes the guys in the clubhouse think we can weather it, but there’s no question we’re a much better ballclub when he’s in the rotation.”