MIAMI -- The Dodgers entered Spring Training with eight established big league starters on the roster. They’ll now be down to just three, at least for the next turn through the rotation.
The latest blow came on Wednesday as the Dodgers announced that they placed ace Clayton Kershaw on the 10-day injured list with left forearm inflammation. Kershaw last pitched on Saturday against the Nationals and was scheduled to pitch on Friday against the D-backs.
Kershaw will undergo further testing when the team returns to Los Angeles.
“He felt it in catch play a couple days ago, so we wanted to get ahead of it,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Obviously there’s a lot left in the season, so to push him through this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Losing Kershaw is a big blow, especially when you consider the current state of the Dodgers’ rotation.
There’s still no clarity on when -- or if -- Trevor Bauer will return to the team as Major League Baseball continues its investigation after sexual assault claims were made against the right-hander. Roberts already said he “doesn’t see” Bauer being back with the team when his seven-day administrative leave comes to an end on Friday.
Bauer’s absence already forced the Dodgers to go with a bullpen game on Sunday against the Nationals and on Wednesday against the Marlins, which Los Angeles lost, 9-6, on walk-off homer. Without Kershaw, the Dodgers only have three healthy starters in Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Tony Gonsolin, and will lean on their bullpen yet again on Friday against Arizona after Urías starts the finale with Miami on Thursday afternoon.
“Our guys will always look to better our club,” Roberts said. “And certainly with what’s going on with our pitching, we’re very mindful of that.”
While the Dodgers could choose to look for external help, the obvious internal choice would be David Price, who the Dodgers have seemingly been hesitant to build up to a full start this season. Roberts said that the idea of building Price back up to a starter “makes more sense” now that Kershaw is down. Price is expected to pitch three innings on Friday, which would continue his progression.
The severity of Kershaw’s injury is not yet known and he could end up missing just one start with the All-Star break potentially giving him enough time to recover for the second half of the season. But in the event that Kershaw’s absence forces him to miss more than one start, the Dodgers don’t have many other options to lean on. They could choose to extend Price or call up right-handed prospects Josiah Gray or Ryan Pepiot.
Gray, however, has only made one appearance after missing two months with a right shoulder impingement. Pepiot, on the other hand, has dominated with Double-A Tulsa this season, sporting a 1.73 ERA and a changeup that could play at the big league level in a spot start.
Kershaw, 33, is 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA this season and has struck out 127 batters over 106 1/3 innings. His 2.1 bWAR is seventh on the team.
“I think we’re trying to be smart about this, understanding that we have the All-Star break,” Roberts said. “He’s a big part of what we’re doing, so leveraging the All-Star break just makes a lot of sense for us.”