It was reported yesterday that Kershaw was set to forego a rehab assignment and start tonight’s game. The three-time Cy Young Award-winner has only made eight starts to date this season, which haven’t been quite on par with his usual standards; the lefty owns a 3.47 FIP in 2018 to go with 53 strikeouts against 11 walks in 49 innings. While still respectable, that FIP would be Kershaw’s highest mark since his rookie season in 2008.
The 30-year-old will finally get a chance to re-establish his value in advance of a potential bout with free agency. It’s widely-known that Kershaw can opt out of the remaining two years and $65MM on his contract in order to test the open market, but a hurler who has long been known as the most dominant in the game suddenly has an injury reputation after missing time in each of the past three seasons with back issues. How he performs the rest of the season and whether he stays healthy will both have an impact on whether the future Hall of Famer ends up a free agent at the end of the year.
Liberatore has spent his entire major-league career with the Dodgers, pitching in parts of each season since his debut in 2015. He owns a lifetime ERA of 3.55 in the majors to go along with 9.44 K/9 and 3.65 BB/9. His control appears to have gotten away from him this season, however, as that walk rate has spiked to 5.54 BB/9 (though in an admittedly small 13-inning sample size). Liberatore has pitched fewer than one inning in eight of his 17 appearances on the season.