Thanks mainly in part to the national weather forecast, the Dodgers will get a much earlier look at staff ace Clayton Kershaw than initially anticipated, setting up a duel with the Mets’ No. 1 arm Jacob deGrom.
Kerhaw was originally slated to pitch for Triple-A Oklahoma City in a rehab start at Omaha, but after learning that the weather in the area was predicting rain, the club determined it would probably be better for Kersh just to remain with the big league squad and throw against the Mets in the second game of the weekend series.
“With the weather uncertainty in Omaha, to keep him here to make his start is probably the best thing for him, and for us,” Roberts said just before Friday’s opener in New York. “We don’t know how much he’s going to pitch. I don’t want to put a limit on him. Obviously there is a limitation with Clayton, and I’ll make that decision.”
Reports earlier in the week indicated that the three-time Cy Young Award winner was expected to throw four innings in his appearance for OKC, and there’s no reason to expect things would be different for the big league club.
Some fans were surprised by the teams decision to let Kersh skip a minor-league rehab start, but it was something that management considered once they learned the ace was indeed ready to compete. Recovering from biceps tendinitis, CK returned to the mound on May 31; however, days after his return he was forced back onto the disabled list with a lower-back strain. Many would think that the team would be cautious to ease Kershaw back into action slowly, but Roberts pointed out that since his activity has been dormant over many weeks, it might make sense to skip any prospective rehab starts.
“You can absolutely make that case and that was our thought,” said Roberts. “When you talk to the player, look at how much he’s pitched the last two months, it hasn’t been a whole lot. To see it in real competition makes a lot of sense.”
Regardless, it could be a huge step forward for the Dodgers, who, with a healthy Kershaw, may be very close to having an optimized starting rotation, especially when considering the recent performances of righty Ross Stripling.
While there was a bit of controversy surrounding Kershaw’s mechanics before both times he landed on the disabled list, the team is confident with the lefty’s health. During his eight starts earlier in the season, he recorded a hard-luck 1-4 record with a 2.76 ERA and a 3.47 FIP alongside 55 punchouts in an even 49 innings of work. He was scrutinized for his fastball velocity in those appearances, which has fallen off considerably when compared to previous seasons. That’s one thing that fans and team officials will be eyeing closely in his return to the bump on Saturday.
“Just the way he’s responded to all the tests and to get him with us, we feel comfortable and confident,” Roberts stated.
It’s still unknown how the team will make room on the active roster for Kershaw in the corresponding move, as it’s believed the club will retain young southpaw Caleb Ferguson for long relief duties should No. 22 falter in the early goings of his start.
In any event, the matchup between Kershaw and deGrom could be a potential ratings booster for Fox Sports, so long as the rain stays away from New York.
First pitch is slated for 4:15 p.m. Los Angeles time.