Clayton Kershaw pitched on three days rest on Saturday for the first time in the regular season in his career, and by pitching five scoreless innings against the Angels moved up two spots on the Dodgers all-time innings list.
Tuesday’s one-inning start in Chicago — the shortest start of his career — made it easier for manager Dave Roberts to start Kershaw on Saturday, which coupled with off days delays the team’s need for a bullpen game to fill in for Dustin May’s fifth-starter spot for another week or so, with Tony Gonsolin looming while he gets stretched out enough to be activated from the injured list later in the month.
Short rest, and the 13-0 lead at the time made the decision to pull Kershaw after only 71 pitches in five innings an easy call for Roberts.
“He took one for the team as far as taking the baseball on short rest in May,” Roberts said. “To go out there on short rest and give us five innings of shutout baseball, and with a 13-run lead, there’s just not a whole lot of upside, in my opinion, to have him go one more.”
“At the end of the day, this was a team decision. A lot of the reasons I wanted to stay in are more for my personal wants and things like that, and that’s not what’s the team’s about,” Kershaw said. “At that point, you can’t really argue with it, and you just go with what Doc thinks is best.”
Kershaw started on three days rest four times in the postseason from 2013-16, and pitched two other times in October after a bullpen appearance in between starts, in 2016 and 2018. But Saturday was the first time in 362 regular season starts that he pitched with less than four days rest.
Kershaw now has pitched 2,377⅔ innings in his career, good for seventh place in franchise history. On Saturday he passed Nap Rucker (2,375⅓ innings) and Adonis Terry (2,376⅓).
It’s been a long climb for Kershaw, who when he made his debut on May 25, 2008, was the 670th pitcher in Dodgers history, which dates back to 1884. By the end of his rookie year, Kershaw’s 107⅔ innings were good enough for 276th place, just behind Elmer Dessens and just ahead of Jose Peña.
Here’s how he progressed at the conclusion of every year of his career.
Kershaw’s progress up the Dodgers innings list
|2008||107⅔||276||Elmer Dessens, Jose Peña|
|2009||278⅔||168||Tiny Osborne, Johnny Babich|
|2010||483||111||Vito Tamulis, Kazuhisa Ishii|
|2011||716⅓||76||Jim Pastorius, Freddie Fitzsimmons|
|2012||944||46||Rube Marquard, Jesse Petty|
|2013||1,180||36||Sherry Smith, Chad Billingsley|
|2014||1,378⅓||24||Ed Stein, Ralph Branca|
|2015||1,611||21||Watty Clark, Bob Caruthers|
|2016||1,760||15||Bob Welch, Jeff Pfeffer|
|2017||1,935||13||Johnny Podres, Burt Hooton|
|2018||2,096⅓||12||Orel Hershiser, Johnny Podres|
|2019||2,274⅔||11||Sandy Koufax, Orel Hershiser|
|2020||2,333||10||Fernando Valenzuela, Sandy Koufax|
|Current||2,377⅔||7||Claude Osteen, Adonis Terry|
Kershaw moved into the top 25 in 2014, and by the end of 2016 was in 15th place. But the last four years saw Kershaw move up “only” five spots, a combination of an innings gap in that section of the leaderboard, one pandemic-shortened season, and Kershaw spending five stints on the injured list over the previous four years.
But this year, Kershaw is making strides. He started the season in 10th place in innings, and passed Fernando Valenzuela (2,348⅔) on April 11. Now in seventh place, Kershaw has a reasonable chance to pass both Claude Osteen (2,397) and Burleigh Grimes (2,426) into fifth place in 2021.