GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While the Dodgers are nearing the end of Spring Training, Clayton Kershaw knows his has essentially just begun.
After throwing a 22-pitch “inning” to batters Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and David Freese -- who tracked pitches and didn’t swing -- Kershaw conceded the shoulder injury he suffered last month did more than just interrupt his training.
“I haven’t had a Spring Training yet, so I got to go through it all,” said Kershaw. “It’s tedious and boring, but hopefully it pays off with a healthy season.”
Kershaw had already been named the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter for a ninth consecutive time when he developed left shoulder inflammation. He stopped throwing long enough for medication to take effect, and he's resumed a methodical throwing program.
But instead of pitching Opening Day, Kershaw will begin the season on the injured list, the fourth consecutive season he will miss games because of injury. Manager Dave Roberts has not named an Opening Day replacement, although Hyun-Jin Ryu seems lined up for the role at this time, with Rich Hill apparently also in the mix.
“Health wise, felt good,” Kershaw said after the session. “You just have to start the build-up process. That’s the bummer to being a starter. Can’t skip innings, got to go an inning at a time. One inning down and go to two innings and work your way up to 100 pitches. I don’t know the exact math, but you go up an inning a start and there’s days in between. It’s probably 20 days or something.”
So Kershaw will miss several weeks of the season, at least.
“At this time of year, it’s OK," he said of the patience needed. “Better to miss a little at the beginning than any time at all the rest of it. Disappointed. Being out there Opening Day is special. I don’t take that for granted. I love being out there and what it signifies and being part of the Dodger history and all that stuff. It’s not lost on me. I love doing that.
“But when you get super realistic about it, it is just one game. So that’s what I keep trying to tell myself. It’s going to be sad on Opening Day, watching somebody else go, but I’ll get over it. Team-wise or season-wise, there’s nothing more important about that game than anything else. It’s just all the outside stuff, I don’t want to say it’s not important; it’s kind of not when it comes to the baseball season, but it is to me because of what it symbolizes. It’s cool.”
Kershaw said starting Opening Day matters to him because “you want to be counted on.”
“You want to have responsibility and you want to feel the team wants you out there. Any time you get the nod to pitch on Opening Day, that’s an exciting thing. I love it, disappointed not to get to do it but after that first win I’ll get over it.
“I had a good run. Hopefully I’ll can get back at it next year and be good to go.”
Roberts said Kershaw will throw a bullpen session on Saturday and two “innings” in a similar setting on Monday in Anaheim before the Freeway Series game against the Angels.
“In three years, after he throws he has a really good idea how he’ll feel afterward, and right now, the way he’s been the last couple of weeks, it’s been very positive every day," Roberts said. "I expect we’ll stay the course.”