The Los Angeles Dodgers had plenty reason to look forward to Friday despite it marking the start of a 10-game road trip that is taking them from Miami to New York to Phoenix. Clayton Kershaw made his long-awaited return to the mound in the series opener against the Marlins.
Kershaw started opposite young Marlins ace Jose Fernandez. Normally, the two would combine for quite the pitchers’ duel. Fernandez held up his end of the bargain, tying a career high with 14 strikeouts and holding the Dodgers scoreless over seven innings.
But Kershaw wasn’t his usual self, which was certainly to be expected. He had gone 75 days between starts in a Major League game. Outside of a simulated game at Dodger Stadium, his only recent action prior to Friday was one rehab start.
Kershaw labored through three innings at Marlins Park, allowing a solo home run to J.T. Realmuto with one out in the bottom of the first inning.
The 28-year-old left-hander threw 14 pitches in the opening frame, 29 in the second inning, and 23 in the third. To no surprise, Kershaw didn’t give himself much of a positive review, via Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA:
“Not great. I was averaging 20-plus pitches an inning, so regardless if the pitch count was in effect or not, it probably would have been a short night. You try and look at the positives, I guess, and I got to pitch again. That’s always fun. But you don’t want to be a detriment to the team either. I’ll definitely try and pitch a little deeper next time. Physically, I was fine.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made it clear simply getting Kershaw on the mound was a win in it of itself. Although he’s being given some rope to find his groove, the three-time Cy Young Award winner isn’t leaving much margin for error:
“I don’t get that luxury. It’s not a perfect world, obviously. But at the same time, it’s September whatever-it-is and we’ve got a division to win. While there might be some rough spots for me at times, there really can’t be.”
Kershaw lobbied to remain in the game in the fourth inning but conceded to Roberts’ bigger-picture message. Aside from closely monitoring workload, the Dodgers haven’t given any indication they’ll handle their ace with any extra measures in place.
Kershaw is already scheduled to make a second start, Wednesday, in the series finale against the New York Yankees.