Dodgers Spring Training: Dave Roberts Believes Clayton Kershaw ‘Is In A Very Good Place’ Heading Into 2020 Season
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw during Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers won a franchise-best 106 games en route to a seventh consecutive National League West division title last season, but ultimately suffered their earliest postseason exit in four years to the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals.

The back-and-forth series came down to a decisive Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers jumped out to a 2-0 lead courtesy of Max Muncy’s homer in the first inning, giving Walker Buehler early run support right out of the gate.

The right-hander exited his outing after 6.2 strong innings of one-run ball, setting the stage for a Clayton Kershaw bullpen appearance. Such was the plan, according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who entered Game 5 with an “all hands on deck” approach.

Kershaw struck out Adam Eaton on three pitches to get out of a jam in the seventh inning, but didn’t fare quite as well the following frame, allowing back-to-back, game-tying home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.

The Nationals went on to win in extra innings, leaving the Dodgers stunned with a disappointing end to an otherwise spectacular season.

Kershaw bore the brunt of the blame for the Dodgers’ loss, but is in good spirits heading into the 2020 campaign. “Clayton is in a very good place,” Roberts said.

“I think that anyone who knows Clayton, has seen him, has spent any time with him, knows how much he prepares, how much he cares. When you have his track record, there is an extra expectation, you can say a burden, whatever it might be, on his shoulders.

“When it doesn’t play out and he feels he let himself, his teammates, the organization, down, which it wasn’t him, he wears that. He’s emotional about it and cares. But the great thing about great players is they’re resilient.

“After that period of recovery — mental, physical — you have to get back after it. Right now, he’s excited about 2020 and he’s healthy. I expect him to have another All-Star season.”

Kershaw was particularly hard on himself after his latest postseason stumble but is determined to improve his perception in October.

The left-hander didn’t necessarily divert from his offseason training but kept with what’s been his new norm. “I think over the last few years he’s kind of curtailed the training as far as the mass,” Roberts explained.

“I do think he threw more this winter than he has thrown in years past. He looks fantastic.”

The 2020 season marks Kershaw’s 13th in the big leagues. He is coming off an All-Star campaign in which he went 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 189 strikeouts over 178.1 innings in 29 games (28 starts).

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