Clayton Kershaw was a guest on Dodger Talk on AM 570 LA Sports with David Vassegh on Wednesday night, and talked about his rehab from left shoulder surgery. Kershaw said he still hasn’t decided on whether he’ll pitch for the Dodgers or Rangers in 2024.
“We were all waiting on Shohei, so it gave me time to think about my decision,” Kershaw told Vassegh. “We’re still kind of in that process now. Shoulder-wise, I’m excited to pitch again, and I really do think it’ll be this summer at some point. I feel good about that.”
Kershaw’s 16 seasons are tied for the most in Dodgers franchise history by a pitcher. He’s said repeatedly that the only two teams he’d consider pitching for are the Dodgers or his hometown Rangers, now the reigning champions whose ballpark is only a short drive from his house near Dallas.
For the third consecutive year, the Dodgers did not extend a qualifying offer to Kershaw in free agency, which could have secured a compensatory draft pick should he sign elsewhere but would have also required some sort of decision by Kershaw with the first two weeks of the offseason. The Dodgers have not wanted to rush Kershaw, but have also made clear that that they want him to return to Los Angeles.
“I think he and Ellen are going to take some time right now and assess,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the season-ending press conference at Dodger Stadium on October 17. “The ball is squarely in their court.”
Before Kershaw could pick a team, he had to decide with his wife Ellen whether he wanted to continue pitching. A left shoulder injury sidelined Kershaw for six weeks in July and August, and limited his effectiveness down the stretch. He managed to pitch through it with some success to end the regular season, but allowed six runs while recording only one out in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks, the worst postseason start of Kershaw’s career.
“After the season it was hard on Ellen and I. My shoulder wasn’t feeling great and trying to figure that part out. We kind of came to the conclusion that, if I wanted to play again I would need to get my shoulder fixed. That was hard,” Kershaw said. “That took a few weeks to think about, talk through, and pray through. Ellen and I were finally like, ‘You know what? I’m not done,’ and at the same time I didn’t want my shoulder to hurt any more and I thought this was the best way to do it.”
Kershaw had surgery in Los Angeles on November 3 to repair the gleno-humeral ligaments and capsule in his left shoulder.
He said his shoulder was in a sling for only three days after the surgery. Now five weeks out, Kerhsaw said he’s doing some strengthening exercises, and still hopes to pitch by some point during the summer.
Were Kershaw to decide to return to the Dodgers for a 17th season, for example, the timing of his decision won’t really affect his readiness for the season considering he’ll be out until some time in the summer at the earliest. Making his signing official at some point in February, after spring training starts, would allow him to be placed on the 60-day injured list, which does otherwise not exist during the offseason. And considering the Dodgers still very much need to add other starting pitchers, 40-man roster space is at a premium at the moment.
But whenever Kershaw makes his 2024 decision, it will be to pick a team, rather than whether he wants to still pitch.
“The competitor in me doesn’t want it to end the way it did,” Kershaw said. “I want to win. I want to win another World Series.”