Mired by shoulder trouble in Spring Training last year, Clayton Kershaw began the 2019 season on the injured list and was unable to extend his Los Angeles Dodgers franchise record of eight consecutive Opening Day starts.
The left-hander returned in April and managed to avoid another stint on the IL, but his velocity was noticeably down for most of the season. He averaged a career-worst 90.4 mph on his fastball and yielded a career-high 28 home runs in what was an otherwise solid campaign.
Not satisfied with the results, Kershaw took advantage of a longer-than-usual offseason by continuously playing catch. He additionally visited Driveline Baseball in effort of refining his mechanics and rediscovering some of his lost velocity.
Kershaw recently took the mound for the first time since Game 5 of the 2019 National League Division Series and enjoyed a successful Cactus League debut. In 1.2 innings of work against the Milwaukee Brewers, he struck out four batters and allowed only two runners to reach base, both on walks.
Kershaw has been pleased with his velocity and health thus far, noting a significant difference from how he felt in Spring Training a year ago, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“It’s night and day. Just everything feels good. During the season, I didn’t feel bad last year. It was just spring. I had to get over that. To have a full offseason and now have a full spring feeling healthy, it can only help. So I’m encouraged by that for sure.”
Kershaw’s fastball sat at 91 mph and even maxed out to 93 mph in last Friday’s outing against the Brewers. While it’s still early, that certainly bodes well for the soon-to-be-32-year-old, who is entering his 13th MLB season.
Kenley Jansen and Alex Wood were among the other Dodgers pitchers to visit Driveline over the offseason, and they too have seen an uptick in their velocities.
Jansen has been perfect this spring, striking out five of the six batters he faced across two appearances. The all-time Dodgers saves leader is mainly looking for consistency but has already noticed improved life on his cutter.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is hopeful Kershaw will see the same result, but he isn’t pinning all hopes on that. “It’s not the ultimate barometer because now you’re talking about execution and what the characteristics do,” Roberts said.
“But that’s the hope, on top of other things. And if it does happen, great. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t know that answer yet.”
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