Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Changed Approach With Postseason Pressure

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Clayton Kershaw is going to be in a familiar setting on Saturday night when he takes the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division.

The postseason start is Kershaw’s 32nd of his career and 39th overall game. But it’s his first time starting the Dodgers’ playoff opener since 2017 and an opportunity Kershaw didn’t necessarily expect when he was placed on the 15-day injured list earlier this year due to left shoulder trouble.

“It’s always a special time in October to get to be a part of it. Get to be Game 1 starter in the Division Series, it’s a special thing,” Kershaw said. “And it’s something that maybe was a little up in the air when I first came back. So very thankful for the opportunity. It’s exciting. It’s a good time to be a Dodger, and I’m ready to go.”

Kershaw and the Dodgers collectively exercised some postseason demons with the 2020 World Series win, but the longtime ace also has benefitted from a personal shift in mindset.

“You can prepare all you want and get ready to go, but at the end of the day you just got to go out there and execute and make your pitches. That never changes. The nerves never change,” he said. “You still feel that no matter what.

“I kind of said this a little bit with the guys, but I think the one thing that has switched for me a little bit is you use those nerves and where are the nerves coming from? I think at times maybe in the past I had a fear of failure and didn’t want to go out there and fail. I think now it’s just a lot more positive.

“It’s just the nerves are from an excitement to get to pitch in the playoffs, to get to be a part of it, to be in this moment that a lot of people in the game don’t get to be in. I think that’s where the nerves come from now. And I think that’s a better place.”

Kershaw dismissed the notion that he developed such a viewpoint in response to facing uncertainty over his availability this October.

“I think for the past however many years to get to be in the postseason, I’ve become more grateful for it. And I think at the end of the day I just look at some of the things that have happened and the things that I’ve gotten to be a part of — and not all has been positive, obviously — but I wouldn’t change it,” Kershaw explained.

“I’d much rather fail on the biggest stages than not to get to be here at all. It’s a special thing to get to be in the postseason. This year was a little bit up in the air for a minute, so it makes you all the more grateful to be here.

“I think when you get beat down enough you start saying screw it. And I think that’s kind of what happened over the years. You can’t hold it too tight. I think you can’t hold it too tight. You’ve just got to go out there and play and pitch. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to go great.

“But I think the mindset can definitely help with that. Just comes with experience. And thankfully for me, I’ve gotten to do it a lot and gotten a little bit better at it over the years.”

Can Clayton Kershaw start on regular rest?

The Dodgers adjusted their starting rotation early into September in order to provide Kershaw with extra rest between each outing and have him exclusively take the mound on Saturdays.

That trend continues with Game 1 of the NLDS, but if he’s needed to make a second start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kershaw would be lined up to do so in a potential Game 4 on regular rest.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team is comfortable with such possibility, and Kershaw echoed that sentiment.

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