For all the accolades Clayton Kershaw has received throughout his career one that tends to get overlooked is his durability. Since becoming a fixture in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation in 2009, he’s made at least 30 starts each season all but once.
The one season Kershaw didn’t hit the benchmark was in 2014, when he placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Of course, all the left-handed ace proceeded to do that year was win the National League MVP Award and a third Cy Young.
Kershaw now finds himself in a similar situation — on the DL with a back injury — albeit this time around with a lower back issue. Surgery isn’t necessary, but not much is known beyond that.
“I feel a little better now,” said Kershaw on Saturday in his first remarks since being diagnosed with a mild disc herniation. “It’s still a little early to tell (about the effectiveness of an epidural shot), usually it takes three to five days and today is the third day. I think I’m starting to get a little relief.”
Kershaw planned to meet with Dr. Robert Watkins for a follow-up, and admitted to having a plan for himself, though seemingly aware it wouldn’t fall in line with the rehab process doctors presumably will call for.
“I’m going to be very impatient, I’m going to try and pitch tomorrow,” Kershaw said with some sense of frustration. He wasn’t able to pinpoint the reason behind his back pain, calling it a “progression,” and approximated the off-and-on issue was one he dealt with for the past two weeks.
While the natural inclination was to tie his subpar outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates to the back issue, he shot that notion down. “The game Sunday, I felt fine,” Kershaw said.
“Then on Monday it started getting a little worse. It was probably time at that point to get checked out.” He added the pain and general stiffness didn’t affect his pitching once in a game, though conceding getting to the point of making a start was at times challenging.
Kershaw is on pace to shatter Phil Hughes’ strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he leads the Majors in ERA (1.79), ERA+ (219) and complete games, among other categories. Beyond frustration over the injury, it was clearly evident Kershaw is most affected by the impact his absence has on his teammates.
“The DL sucks. There’s no getting around it, it’s awful. It’s worse coming to the field every day,” he said. “Whether it’s true or not, you feel like you let the team down by not pitching. It’s just the way it is.”
At this stage the biggest question mark is determining how long the Dodgers will be without their ace. When asked if he had an idea of how much time he would miss, Kershaw said, “Not that I’m willing to discuss at this time.”