Though the Los Angeles Dodgers faced a possibility of the 2018 season being the last Clayton Kershaw spent with the organization, it quickly became apparent he was likely to remain with the team.
Rather than opting out of the two years remaining on his previous contract and reaching free agency for the first time, Kershaw agreed to a three-year contract extension. Kershaw reported for Spring Training with the same laser-like focus and further motivated to silence his critics.
And on the same day the Dodgers held their first full-squad workout at Camelback Ranch, manager Dave Roberts completed what’s become an annual tradition by naming Kershaw the club’s Opening Day starter.
It will mark the ninth consecutive year Kershaw starts the first game of the season for the Dodgers, extending his franchise record. Despite the frequency with which he’s held the honor, Kershaw still enjoys and is appreciative of the opportunity to take the ball on Opening Day, per Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“It just means I’m old I guess,” Kershaw said. “I mean, you don’t ever want to make light of the situation. It’s very cool. The cliche is it’s just another game, and it is. But I guess opening day means a lot, symbolizes a lot of different things. I’m excited about it. It will be cool.
“Being on the same team for that long,” Kershaw said, “getting to do that with the Dodgers, a team with such a long list of great starting pitchers, to kind of be associated with them, is pretty special.”
Last year, Kershaw broke a tie with Don Drysdale and Don Sutton for most consecutive Opening Day starts in Dodgers history. Vicente Padilla (2010) is the last pitcher other than Kershaw to start a season opener for the Dodgers.
The team is 7-1 in Kershaw’s Opening Day starts, with their lone loss coming last season to the San Francisco Giants. Kershaw personally is 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched in those games.
His five Opening Day wins are tied with Drysdale for most in franchise history, and Kershaw’s ERA in such starts is the second-lowest mark in MLB history among pitchers who have started at least five season openers (Rick Mahler, 0.92 ERA).
Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez holds the longest active streak with 10 straight Opening Day starts. The Mariners have not yet announced their plans, but Hernandez presumably will add to his record in the final year of his contract.
Robin Roberts (1950-61) of the Philadelphia Phillies holds the record for consecutive starts on Opening Day with a single team at 12. Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jack Morris has the overall record, with a stretch of 14 Opening Day starts with the Detroit Tigers (1980-90), Minnesota Twins (1991) and Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93).
Kershaw and the Dodgers open the 2019 season when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, March 28.
Clayton Kershaw Opening Day starts
|Season||Opponent||Result||Innings Pitched||Hits||Earned Runs||Strikeouts|
|2012||@ Padres||No Decision||3.0||2||0||3|
|2014||vs. Diamondbacks (Australia)||Win||6.2||5||1||7|
|2015||vs. Padres||No Decision||6.0||6||3||9|