The Dodgers received mixed news on two key starting pitching injury situations today, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times was among those to report (links to Twitter). While Clayton Kershaw is making some positive progress, per manager Dave Roberts, fellow southpaw Hyun-jin Ryu is likely done for the year.
Kershaw, who led the N.L. in ERA in four of the last five years and is doing so again this season, is ready for a bullpen session on Saturday. That’s certainly a good sign, as the southpaw had been working only off of flat ground. Kershaw has been out since late June with a back injury, with his initial attempt at a return pushed back when the problem flared up.
To call Kershaw’s injury situation a difference-making factor in the NL West race (and, thereafter, the post-season) would surely be an understatement. He had already racked up 121 innings of 1.79 ERA pitching over 16 starts, with 10.8 K/9 against 0.7 BB/9, somehow improving over his already best-in-class track record. Anything close to Kershaw’s typical production would provide a huge boon to L.A. down the stretch.
Things are somewhat more concerning with regard to Ryu, with Roberts suggesting he doesn’t foresee a return in 2016. The 29-year-old did make it back to the majors for the first time since 2014 earlier this summer, but was bombed in his only appearance and promptly slotted back onto the injured list.
Shoulder and (more recently) elbow issues are eating up some of the prime years of Ryu’s career. Los Angeles has probably already received fair value on its six-year, $36MM commitment to Ryu, given his outstanding first two campaigns. But for the deal to turn back into the screaming value it once was, the Korean hurler will need to return to health.
The remaining contract — which guarantees Ryu $14MM over two years — may or may not prove to be beneficial to L.A. But that would be a paltry sum if he can return to being even a merely solid MLB starter, and it’s obviously far too soon to lose hope. Ryu did finally return to the big league mound, with his average fastball in his lone outing clocking just one mile per hour lower than his career average. And it is worth noting that he managed 23 strikeouts against just a single walk over his eight rehab starts, so he it would appear that he has not lost his impeccable command.