While there’s still plenty of time remaining before the beginning of the abbreviated 2020 MLB season, there is a good chance that Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers for the opener, so long as everything stays on track.
Leading up to the original Opening Day back in March, there seemed to be a bit of speculation as to who would get the starting nod. Young righty Walker Buehler has emerged as perhaps the most talented arm of the group, yet skipper Dave Roberts settled on Kershaw in his final decision.
“It was a difficult decision, and I think that’s a good thing,” Roberts said back on March 9. “I think it was a difficult decision in the sense of what Walker has done and what we expect him to do this year, so I think that’s a compliment to both players. I think, ultimately, having Clayton start Opening Day made the most sense for us that day and also going forward.”
As humbled and tuned in as Kershaw is, the veteran lefty has never lost his high regard for what it means to get an Opening Day call.
“It’s really cool,” Kershaw said in March. “I feel like I’ve said it every year, but I don’t take it lightly. It is an honor. It is just one game, but it’s an honor to get the start. Opening Day is a special day in baseball, to get to be a part of it is really cool.”
A starting nod this year will be Kersh’s ninth career Opening Day start, extending his own team record.
Los Angeles won all of Kershaw’s first seven Opening Day starts, as he compiled a 5-0 record with a 0.99 ERA during that span. However, his win streak was broken in 2018 when the Dodgers were blanked by the Giants, 1-0.
Last year, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu took the mound on Opening day for the Dodgers when Kershaw was deemed unable to throw after dealing with shoulder problems most of the spring.
Kershaw was the team’s first pick in the 2006 draft, joining the big league squad in 2008. The Dodgers have gone to the playoffs in almost every year he has been in the rotation, including winning six straight division titles from 2013-2018, three straight NLCS appearances, and back-to-back World Series appearances in 2017-18. Kershaw won the NL Cy Young in 2013, 2104, and 2106. He also was the NL MVP for the 2014 season.
So far during Spring Training 2.0, CK seems to be a bit ahead of the curve. The 32-year-old lefty told reporters on Friday that he threw a full three innings in a simulated game last week and another four innings when he cleared his intake testing on Wednesday.
Bill Plunkett of the OC Register reported this weekend that the plan is for Kersh to throw five full innings on Monday, setting him up for a potential 100-pitch outing on Opening Day.
“We want to get this going,” Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com on Friday. “We want to do this.”