Despite previous speculation that Clayton Kershaw would opt out of his contract and become the latest star to enter a historic 2018 free agent class, his desire all along was to remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The two sides hammered out a three-year extension earlier this offseason, ensuring that the three-time Cy Young Award winner will stay put with the only organization he’s ever known through his age-33 season.
Looking ahead to 2019, Kershaw figures to once again anchor an impressive starting rotation that was recently bolstered with Hyun-Jin Ryu’s return after accepting the qualifying offer.
Kershaw has set many goals for himself going forward, including prioritizing his health this offseason as a way to avoid future disabled list stints.
The 30-year-old also has sights on returning to his previous elite form, and even hopes for an increase in velocity, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I’m focused on getting outs, doing it very well and doing it efficiently,” Kershaw said. “I plan on getting back to that level I was at. If that means the velocity comes back, I’m not counting that out. It very well could. I have ideas on how I can improve on that.”
Again missing time with back issues, Kershaw was forced to reinvent himself a bit during the 2018 season, relying less heavily on his fastball and more on breaking pitches.
The left-hander still put forth a solid campaign, posting a 2.73 ERA, 3.18 FIP and 1.04 WHIP in 161.1 innings of work (26 starts). His strikeouts were down as a result of his diminished velocity, but he made up for it by limiting walks and home runs.
As an effort to regain some speed on his heater, Kershaw revealed that he will seek advice from older pitchers around the league this offseason, such as the Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander, who still registers an average fastball velocity in the upper-90s.