Opening Day of the 2019 season is now less than two weeks away, and it is still unclear who will be on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.
It originally was supposed to be Clayton Kershaw extending his franchise record to nine consecutive Opening Day starts, but he has yet to throw in a game this spring after being limited due to shoulder inflammation.
The first option after Kershaw would have been Walker Buehler, but he also has yet to pitch in a Cactus League game due to being slow-played. Buehler is a bit further along than Kershaw though as he is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut in the coming days.
If neither of the aces are ready for Opening Day, then Roberts indicated Rich Hill could be in line to get that start. Another option that Roberts is considering though is Kershaw or Buehler for an abbreviated start, followed by a reliever that is being stretched out this spring like Ross Stripling or Julio Urias, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
Roberts said he would be open to a "non-traditional start" for Kershaw and/or Buehler in the first time around the rotation with long reliever (Stripling, Urias, Ferguson) following for middle innings
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) March 15, 2019
Kershaw or Buehler starting would, of course, be dependent on them being healthy enough to do so, and time is running out. Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda have all looked good so far this spring and would definitely be capable replacements.
As nice of a moment as it would be for Kershaw to extend his franchise record, he recently said his focus is on getting healthy and stretched out so he can be around all season. If Kershaw doesn’t believe he is ready to go by Opening Day, then he is not going to push himself just to keep his streak going.