Broad Shoulders, Standing Tall – Clayton Kershaw Dodgers Opening Day Pitcher
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If there was one moment in time which could derail a career, for the Clayton Kershaw, it was the fifth game in last year’s World Series. At the bottom of the first, the Astros Dallas Keuchel threw down the gauntlet to Kershaw by gifting the Dodgers a 3–0 lead. The Dodgers opener responded with three swift outs, albeit giving up hits and walks.

The pitchers traded innings until the top of the fourth when Logan Forsythe ran in a fourth unanswered run to bring the 4 – 0 lead up. Whisper it; the Dodgers were on the way to taking an advantage into the final two games. And then it all went wrong. The Brothers Grimm wrote fairy tales but there was to be none for the Dodgers or Kershaw; it would just be grim for the remainder of the game.

If Keuchel endured the first inning, Kershaw did the same with the fourth. 4–0 became 4–4 which turned to a 13–12 ten-inning defeat. The 3–2 advantage proved decisive with the Astros taking their first World Series. It’s the stuff of nightmares for any player but for a pitcher, there was a hole deep enough or dark enough for Clayton Kershaw to dive into.

Yet, three months on, Kershaw received a massive vote of confidence. Spring training for the pitchers and catchers is under way, prompting Dave Roberts to kill any speculation stone dead.

For a record eighth time, Clayton Kershaw would be his opening pitcher on March 29th when the Dodgers visit the Giants. According to Betway, the Dodgers are favorites to claim their sixth consecutive National League West title, and few would argue with that assessment. A second consecutive pennant is a tougher call; the Cubs landed Yu Darvish, a player many wanted to grace the turf at Dodgers Stadium, making their team a tougher proposition to crack in what is expected to be this year’s Championship Series.

Broad Shoulders, Standing Tall

When he steps up to throw the first pitch of the season, Kershaw will surpass Don Drysdale and Don Sutton in the Dodgers record books. The bare statistics underline why Roberts made his decision. The Dodgers are unbeaten on the opening day with Kershaw on the mound. In a results-based business, that will weight heavily in his favor. As do his stats of 52 strikeouts in 45.67 innings with an ERA of 0.99.
That record will be tested by the rival Giants, as much by their offense as by the occasion itself. There is a sense of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ about this campaign. The disappointment of losing a World Series inspires a feeling of wanting to climb the heights once again but at the same time, it’s a bit flat.

“I don’t really take something and move on. I just kind of absorb it…” ~ Clayton Kershaw

A lot rests on Kershaw’s shoulders this year. The show of faith from the manager must be repaid and the 29-year-old pitcher took an edgily philosophical view of history. “I don’t really take something and move on. I just kind of absorb it,” he said when referring to 2017 World Series. The approach echoes Friedrich Nietzsche’s words, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

Kershaw then sent a laconic curve ball to the waiting media. “I’m not sure [if that’s healthy]. I’ll let you know, if I explode at some point.” A sense of gallows humor prevails but also leaving Dodgers fans with enough of a shuffle of the feet to be uncomfortable and watching the mound intently on the opening game of the season.

With the experience and accolades garnered during his career, is there any reason to be concerned about Kershaw during 2018? You would think not for a man who stands 68th in the list of career strikeouts with 2,120 at the time of writing.

Yet the experienced professional is often the one from whom the unexpected happens. We know a rookie is learning his trade and is prone to errors. The coaches aim to iron out those kinks and bring the potential to the surface, for it to become reality. With a man of Kershaw’s experience, the impact of contributing to a defeat in one immense moment in time is incalculable. Only the practical exercise of seeing him pitch and deciphering what level he is reaching tells us where the Dodgers are going this season.

Eight opening day victories in a row will tell us all we need to know about his mindset on the opening day. When the pressure is on, that’s when we see if the cracks are there.