Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw’s balky shoulder puts Opening Day streak in question

Clayton Kershaw is dealing with a shoulder problem that could see the Dodgers ace begin the season on the injured list.

Death, taxes, and Clayton Kershaw starting on Opening Day. Since 2011, these have been the guarantees (eventual or otherwise) for anyone attached to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, manager Dave Roberts acknowledged Kershaw may not be ready to start on Opening Day vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 28.

Kershaw has been bothered by left shoulder inflammation during spring training, which has robbed him of the ramping up time to build up his stamina and pitch count.

He did play catch again on Monday, for the fourth time in the last five days, and the results were the most encouraging. Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett reports Dave Roberts said Kershaw was “more than encouraged” after Monday’s session. “He was pretty excited, so that was a good thing for us.”

Promising results as Kershaw appears to be on the mend and avoided something more serious. However, the timetable for Kershaw to throw off a mound, let alone face hitters in a simulated or actual game, is not clear.

As DiGiovanna noted, Kershaw would need four spring training starts to build up the kind of stamina required to pitch five-six innings in a regular season game. To meet those criteria, he’d have to pitch in a game by Friday.

If Kershaw can’t meet that timeline, the Dodgers may have to consider putting Kershaw on the injured list and give him the necessary time to get him ready and healthy. The Dodgers shouldn’t run the risk of rushing Kershaw’s recovery at the risk of a potential setback that could cost Kershaw a longer stint on what used to be the disabled list.

Kershaw is quickly becoming an injury-prone ace. He’s been on the disabled list for significant chunks of the last three seasons, with ongoing back issues most prevalent and bicep tendonitis added to the mix last year. Not being ready to pitch on Opening Day could just mean a delay of his season debut by as little as a day or two, but this shoulder issue is cause for a healthy level of concern regarding Kershaw.

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If Kershaw is not able to take the ball for a ninth straight Opening Day, and he certainly has an uphill climb to get to that point, Roberts would likely turn to 23-year-old Walker Buehler who had a 2.62 E.R.A. in 23 regular season starts and threw seven shutout, two-hit innings in the World Series vs. the Boston Red Sox last year.

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