There’d been some recent hope that Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw could make it back to the mound in the near future. The three-time Cy Young winner is on the IL with forearm inflammation but had progressed to throwing a bullpen session and was slated to throw a 60-pitch simulated game. Manager Dave Roberts, however, said recently that Kershaw was dealing with “residual soreness” following his latest session, and the skipper now tells reporters that he expects Kershaw to return “sometime in September” (Twitter link via Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times).
It’s been nearly a month since Kershaw initially landed on the injured list, and one can only imagine that the uncertainty surrounding his current status was a driving factor in the Dodgers’ decision to aggressively pursue rotation help over the past week. President of baseball ops Andrew Friedman and his staff have acquired Max Scherzer and Danny Duffy via trade, and they’ve also signed Cole Hamels to a Major League deal for the remainder of the season.
Duffy and Hamels, like Kershaw, are down-the-road additions. Duffy is on the injured list for a second time this season owing to a forearm strain and is likely out until the middle of this month. Hamels, meanwhile, needs to build up arm strength before returning to a Major League mound. He pitched just 3 1/3 innings for the Braves in 2020 due to shoulder and triceps injuries.
For the time being, they’ll lean on Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias in the top three spots of the rotation. Former Cy Young winner David Price, who’d been in the bullpen, will start tonight for the fifth time since Kershaw went on the injured list. His most recent outing had been a one-inning relief stint on Aug. 1, but he tossed 64 pitches on July 29 and 74 pitches on July 23, so he’s still fairly well stretched out.
At 65-44, the Dodgers are tied with the Brewers for the second-best record in baseball. No club has a better run differential than L.A.’s mark of +164. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the only team in the game with a better record is the first-place Giants, who lead the NL West by a margin of four games as of this writing. Slotting Scherzer in alongside Buehler and Urias gives the Dodgers an outstanding top three on which to rely, but Kershaw’s absence still looms large.
The 33-year-old Kershaw is in the midst of yet another excellent season, having pitched to a 3.39 ERA in 106 2/3 frames. That earned run average, incredibly, is his “worst” since his rookie season in 2008, but Kershaw is also sporting his best strikeout percentage (30.1) since 2016 and the fifth-lowest walk percentage (4.5) of any Major League pitcher with at least 100 innings this season. He’s in the final season of a three-year, $93MM contract and is scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end.