With each passing day, it seems as if more positive news surfaces regarding the improvement of staff ace Clayton Kershaw‘s back injury. Yet regardless of how hard the three-time NL Cy Young award winner pushes for a return to the active roster, the Dodgers have hardly any rationale at all to warrant a speedy return to the team.
On Wednesday evening before the opener against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Kersh was throwing long toss off of flat ground very comfortably. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com said it actually reminded him of how CK would warmup before a normal start or a scheduled bullpen. Later, skipper Dave Roberts chuckled that Clayton had similar characteristics to a “caged animal.” After the throwing ended Wednesday, Kershaw told reporters that there’s a monitored bullpen session scheduled sometime over the next few days, and he also discussed the possibility of a sim game and a rehab start in the very near future.
“I feel healthy. I don’t feel I’ve lost much,” Kershaw said.
Roberts also indicated that he’d like to see his ace get “four to five” regular season starts with the big league club before the beginning of the postseason, which is totally understandable from the standpoint of stretching out Kersh beyond 100 pitches, and more importantly, ensuring that he’s in tune with all the mechanics of his delivery. From a timing perspective, that puts a ballpark return somewhere around the second week of September, however, most who keep up with the daily rumblings have a sense that he could rejoin the squad well in advance of that particular point in time.
The rehabilitation plan sounds very well thought out, yet if there’s the least bit of discomfort or a sign of hesitation, the best move would likely to be to slow down or back off completely for a short period, as there’s still more than enough time for a slower plan of action. Eclipsing the franchise record of 105 wins would be a glorious mark to attain, however, a push deep into the postseason with arguably the game’s best pitcher at peak health is certainly of higher importance. And while one final concerted effort at tallying some last minute stats towards a fourth Cy Young award would be nice, it pales in comparison to having him ready to go with a full tank of gas in a prospective start in the 2017 World Series opener.
There’s more than enough talent on board to hold down the fort for the time being, especially considering the recent acquisition of righty Yu Darvish. Furthermore, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu are throwing like an effective No. 2 or No. 3 at the moment, while veteran southpaw Rich Hill is visibly pitching his best ball of the year. The starting rotation is throwing so well that it could probably even afford Alex Wood a break of sorts, most specifically to address the mechanical issue he showed last week when his heater fell off in velocity.
As it stands now, there’s more than enough wiggle room for the Dodgers considering the club’s 15 game lead over the Diamondbacks, and while more cumulative historical records would be awesome for the Los Angeles record books, the most important goal right now should be getting the primary contributors to the beginning of the playoffs uninjured and in one piece.
And, extra care should be taken with the Greatest Pitcher on the Planet, for without Kershaw, the team’s chances of a successful run at a World Championship will drop off quite a few ticks right off the top.
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