I think it’s referred to as the IL (Injured List) now, but we’re still going to roll with the DL for this article.
Manager Dave Roberts has a very tough decision on his hands. Coming into the spring, there was no question as to who would be taking the mound for the Dodgers on March 28. The same guy who has taken the hill on Opening Day every year since 2010, Clayton Kershaw.
The 30-year-old Kershaw has started eight consecutive opening-days, a franchise record. That impressive streak may be in jeopardy.
Kershaw has yet to appear in a game this spring, as he is dealing with shoulder inflammation. He resumed throwing earlier this week, playing catch from 60-70 feet. Though he appears to be progressing in the right direction, he still looks to be a ways away from stepping on a mound in a game. He’ll still have to go through multiple bullpen sessions, and there’s no timetable as to when that can take place.
With no certain timetable as to when we can expect Kershaw to return, the question arises as to whether or not the Dodgers should place him on the DL to start the season.
Kershaw has missed 165 games since 2014, including 39 in 2018. Injuries are nothing new for him.
I know every Dodgers fan wants to see No. 22 take the mound on Opening Day, I myself want nothing more. But, as we’ve seen over the years, Kershaw is prone to injuries, and this is something that shouldn’t be risked.
He should be given as much time as he needs to recover, and come back when he feels 100 percent healthy. Whether that’s in a few weeks, a month, or however long that is.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, not having Kershaw get the nod on Opening Day. But, luckily for the Dodgers, they’re built to compete regardless of how long he is out. They still have one of the better rotations in all of baseball without him, and have some guys that can fill into the role perfectly.
First things first, who gets the start?
Well, luckily for LA, they have plenty of options to choose from. Walker Buehler would be the likely bet, but he’s been held back so far this spring, and it’s unsure as to how healthy he’ll be come Opening Day.
The Dodgers have said that they expect Buehler to be ready for the start of the season, but we haven’t seen him step on a mound yet, so that’s still to be determined.
Another solid option would be Rich Hill. It’s been a good spring so far for Hill, and he’s stated that he’s already prepared for the season. After throwing only 30 pitches in his last appearance, Hill said following his outing he easily could have made it to 100 pitches. With LA’s top two pitchers dealing with injuries, this is a positive sign to see, and could help convince the Dodgers he’s ready to potentially get the start.
With Kershaw potentially missing time, the Dodgers have plenty of arms they can turn to as their No. 5 starter.
Julio Urias has been terrific this spring, and looks as if he’s ready to finally slide into the rotation. Roberts has said that he envisions Urias joining the rotation, so this could be an easy fit.
If not, the Dodgers can also turn to Ross Stripling, who made 21 starts last season.
There’s still plenty of time to decide what to do if you’re the Dodgers. Three weeks is a lot of time, and a lot can change for Kershaw during that stretch. If he feels fully healthy, and feels confident going out there for game one, by all means he should go for it.
However, if he’s not 100 percent, the Dodgers will be in good hands until he’s fully healthy enough to come back, and shouldn’t risk further injury with their ace.
If you're the Dodgers, do you risk Kershaw's health and start him Opening Day?— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) March 6, 2019
Or do you place him on the DL until he's fully healthy, and start either Buehler/Hill/Ryu?