It’s not often a pitcher who has started just one game in nearly two months would go without a start in the minor leagues before returning to a Major League mound. But that's just what’s happening for Clayton Kershaw when he takes the mound in New York Saturday.
The lefty will still be held to around sixty pitches and four innings so long as the plan didn’t change with the venue. But manager Dave Roberts told media Friday, he would figure out how long Kershaw goes as the game unfolds.
“We don’t know how much he’s going to pitch,” said Roberts. “I don’t want to put a limit on him. Obviously, there is a limitation with Clayton, and I’ll make that decision.”
There is a 70-percent chance of rain at Citi Field for a three hour window starting about an hour before the anticipated first pitch at 7:15 p.m eastern. The Dodgers will have Caleb Ferguson — the scheduled starter before the Kershaw decision — ready to step in should the weather mess with the plan.
“From what I understand it’s going to be early, and if there’s a delay, we have ample time to get him ready. But obviously, we’re not going to do anything to put him in harm’s way,” Roberts said. “If there is something where we are shut down, having Caleb behind him, we have that coverage. So we can kind of combat that.”
A rehab assignment of sorts at the big league level for Kershaw against a struggling Mets team, means the Dodgers will soon have a healthy rotation for the first time since April.
The next five days will be started by Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Alex Wood. Walker Buehler and Hyun-jin Ryu could both be ready to go in July which would give the Dodgers a decision on who starts and who heads to the bullpen. A luxury they haven’t had this season.
The obvious goal is to keep Kershaw completely healthy as the team vies for a spot in the playoffs. But what can be expected from the 30-year-old as he makes his way back from another back injury?
After missing two months in 2016 with a herniated disk, Kershaw was spectacular, giving up just six runs (four earned) over five starts to end the season. When he returned in September last season after missing August with a similar back strain to this year, Kershaw had a 3.48 ERA with 34 strikeouts and six walks in six starts.
On a positive note about 2018, there is a much longer lead time for the lefty to get healthy. And if the Dodgers plan on making noise in October, they’re going to need him.