2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Player Reviews: Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

After helping the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first World Series in 32 years, Clayton Kershaw went into the 2021 season with the feeling of a burden being lifted but determined as ever to capture another title.

Coming off uneven performances in Spring Training, Kershaw took the mound for a ninth career Opening Day start. He allowed six runs (five earned) on 10 hits over 5.2 innings and took a loss against the Colorado Rockies.

He and the Dodgers downplayed concern with the uncharacteristic performance, and Kershaw responded with seven innings of one-run ball his next time out.

The first month of the regular season could be deemed successful even if Kershaw wasn’t overly dominant, but his May got off on the wrong foot. Kershaw pitched just one inning against the Chicago Cubs on May 4 in what marked the shortest start of his career. He was improved on short rest four days later, throwing five scoreless at Angel Stadium.

That began a stretch of 10 consecutive starts in which Kershaw allowed two earned runs or fewer. It was snapped by the Washington Nationals pushing across three runs on July 3, but a more pressing issue arose four days later when the Dodgers placed Kershaw on the 10-day injured list due to left forearm inflammation.

An MRI ruled out potential Tommy John surgery and Kershaw was projected to make a return at some point during the second half of the season.

Kershaw advanced to facing batters at the end of July but that wound up bringing about residual soreness and he later admitted to rushing the recovery process. The left-hander took a more deliberate approach the second time around and wasn’t activated until Sept. 13.

That allowed Kershaw just enough time to stretch out to a full starter’s workload by the postseason. He had back-to-back encouraging outings, then regressed in a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks before everything came to a grinding halt on Oct. 1.

Kershaw failed to make it out of the second inning due to what was deemed a second bout of forearm inflammation. While the Dodgers were encouraged Kershaw’s UCL again did not suffer damage, the injury ended his year.

“I know we’re going to do something special this year and I wanted to be a part of that,” Kershaw said. “So that’s the hardest part for me right now. Just knowing that chances are it’s not looking great for October. Overall, it’s going to be fun to watch. I’m excited for these guys to do what they’re going to do in October.”

Kershaw’s 2021 highlight

Facing the Cubs for a second time, Kershaw atoned for his career-worst start at Wrigley Field by collecting 13 strikeouts and allowing just one run on four hits over eight innings.

2022 outlook

The 33-year-old received a platelet-rich plasma injection (PRP) injection to treat his elbow/forearm injury and is anticipated to continue pitching this season. Kershaw was not among the free agents to sign before the MLB lockout began, and it’s believed he will decide between re-signing with the Dodgers or join his hometown Texas Rangers.

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