Dodgers Optimistic Health No Longer A Concern For Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw, 2020 Spring Training
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training last year was cruel for Clayton Kershaw, as he struggled to overcome shoulder trouble that ultimately led to beginning the 2019 season on the injured list. His velocity was diminished throughout the year but Kershaw managed to avoid a return to the IL after being activated.

In overall good health heading into the offseason, Kershaw continued throwing throughout the winter and was among the growing list of players to visit Driveline Baseball. He’s poised to make his 2020 Cactus League debut Friday and is doing so with the Dodgers optimistic over his physical state.

“You can watch him and see how much different his body is moving. That in itself is very exciting for all of us,” manager Dave Roberts said this week. “I’m just thrilled with where he’s at. All the other fine-tuning will take care of itself.

“To have him in a place where he can get back to what he was before as far as his body, that’s really exciting.

“What I see is when you’re not completely healthy — with any player — there’s a doubt, there’s a wondering of when the shoe drops, and you’re kind of holding on. Now, it seems like that’s in the past and he’s feeling so good that there’s more clarity and confidence with how the body is going to react to whatever workload is ahead of him.”

Roberts acknowledged Kershaw’s visit to Driveline was likely a factor, but he also credited the Dodgers’ medical staff for assisting the soon-to-be-32-year-old.

“I think that’s one part of it as far as how his body works, where his body is sort of reset and gotten back to where it’s supposed to be,” Roberts said of Kershaw’s work with Driveline.

“I think our strength and conditioning guys have done a great job of identifying some things and getting his body to work right. On top of the Driveline thing, layering that, all of that has kind of got us to this point.”

Kenley Jansen and Alex Wood are among the Dodgers pitchers who also visited the ever-influential lab. Both have seen an uptick in velocity this spring, which Roberts said was a “hope” that would manifest with Kershaw.

“It’s not the ultimate barometer because now you’re talking about execution and what the characteristics do,” he added.

“And if it does happen, great. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. For me, I see swings, I see life in the zone, I see sharpness. And I think that translates to getting Major League hitters out. That’s kind of my gauge as opposed to just a number on the radar gun.”

As for where Kershaw stands mentally — he was down and hypercritical of himself after last pitching — Roberts is equally optimistic. “Clayton is in a very good place. I think that anyone who knows Clayton, has seen him, has spent any time with him, knows how much he prepares, how much he cares,” he said.

“When you have his track record, there is an extra expectation, you can say a burden, whatever it might be, on his shoulders. When it doesn’t play out and he feels he let himself, his teammates, the organization, down, which it wasn’t him, he wears that.

“He’s emotional about it and cares. But the great thing about great players is they’re resilient. After that period of recovery — mental, physical — you have to get back after it. Right now, he’s excited about 2020 and he’s healthy. I expect him to have another All-Star season.”

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