The Los Angeles Dodgers not only survived last season for 10 weeks without Clayton Kershaw, they went 35-23 and overtook the San Francisco Giants atop the National League West standings well before he returned in September.
While the Dodgers once again are without Kershaw because of a balky back, the circumstances are drastically different. They went into Thursday’s off-day with the best record in the Majors and holding a 12.5-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
In similar fashion to their handling of Kershaw’s injury last year, a mild herniated disc, the Dodgers have not set — or at least publicly acknowledged — any sort of timetable. Kershaw denied a reported projection of four to six weeks recovery as being inaccurate.
What the three-time Cy Young Award did reveal, however, is his current status is much improved when compared to last season’s, according to Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times:
“It’s definitely not as painful this year,” Kershaw said. “Everyday life isn’t really affected, which is good. Last year, I couldn’t sit, couldn’t really bend in any way. This one’s not nearly like that. Just trying to play that balance of wanting to do a lot, but having to make sure I don’t make it worse before it heals.”
The Dodgers presumably will exercise caution in handling Kershaw’s recovery, presumably allowing for him to remain on the disabled list into September. Kershaw is hopeful he’ll return in time to make starts as preparation for the playoffs:
“I might not pitch as many starts as I’d like in the regular season, but I definitely would like at least a few before October,” Kershaw said. “I don’t see that being a problem.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw is on pain medication and won’t resume throwing until the pain in his lower back has completely subsided. Roberts also reiterated the injury is muscle-related (a Grade 1 strain) and does not involve a disc.
At the time of being placed on the disabled list last season, Kershaw was 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA. He led the Majors in ERA, complete games (three), complete-game shutouts (three), innings pitched (121) and strikeouts (145), among other categories.
Upon returning for the final month of the regular season, he went 1-2 with a 1.29 ERA while holding opponents to a .196/.263/.459 batting line over five starts.
Thus far in 2017, Kershaw is 15-2 with a 2.04 ERA, 2.93 FIP and 0.88 WHIP in 21 starts. He currently leads the Majors in ERA, ERA+ (205), wins and is second in innings pitched (141.1).