Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Pitching Through Left Shoulder Injury

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Pitching has been a constant concern for the Los Angeles Dodgers throughout the 2023 season, and their outlook was made even shakier in the wake of Julio Urías getting arrested and Clayton Kershaw laboring through another outing.

Urías was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence on Sunday night, with the news coming out of the following day. It is unlikely he will pitch again this season, but MLB is currently investigating.

As for Kershaw, he has continued to make starts for the Dodgers, but his left shoulder has remained an issue since coming off the 15-day injured list last month.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts addressed the situation before the southpaw made his start against the Miami Marlins, via SportsNet LA:

“I think part of it is what he’s going through with the left shoulder and all that comes with the body, and how the body protects, how you’re feeling day to day, outing to outing. This week, the buildup, everything was great. Saw him today, talked to Thomas our trainer, Clayton feels good today, so I’m expecting a lot better throws than we saw the last outing.

“I think the hope is he’s going to continue to feel better, but given where he’s at physically, it’s hard to say that’s going to happen. If we can hold here and bet on him, I think we’d bank that. … It is what it is. Guys say that, and I hate that answer, but it’s where he’s at. So he’s where he’s at, he’s able to make a start, and that’s where he’s at. So I can’t really give more color. I really can’t.”

Kershaw pitched five innings on Tuesday, giving up three runs, but his command and velocity were both off. He walked five hitters compared to only three strikeouts, allowed two home runs, and topped out at 89.9 mph on his fastball.

Kershaw’s average fastball of 88.2 mph was down 2.9 mph from his season average.

While the longtime ace is clearly bothered by his left shoulder injury, Roberts said the Dodgers are going to keep having Kershaw pitch:

“He’s going to keep going until he can’t. … If he’s able to take the baseball, he’s going to take the baseball. This has nothing to do with where the rotation is at, who’s available, who’s not.”

In addition to the drop in velocity, Kershaw also adjusted his pitch up, relying less on the slider and more on his changeup and curveball.

When asked about his shoulder, Kershaw said it isn’t bothering him, which seems more like passing up the opportunity to use it as an excuse based on the comments Roberts made:

“I feel fine. I feel fine. That’s not the problem. I feel fine.”

Overall, Kershaw has still been more effective than not since returning from the IL, but the major drop in velocity is a concern.

Kershaw continues to reinvent himself as a pitcher and has earned the right to continue pitching until he feels he can’t anymore. But at some point, the drop in velocity coupled with the pain may be too much to overcome.

If Kershaw is unable to pitch in the postseason, the Dodgers would have to utilize some combination of Lance Lynn, Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheehan, Gavin Stone and Ryan Yarbrough to fill out their rotation. Walker Buehler also remains a potential option, but it’s no guarantee he returns and how much he’ll be built up is still a question.

Could Clayton Kershaw consider retirement?

Kershaw is set to become a free agent after the 2023 season, which will once again leave three options on the table: re-sign with the Dodgers once again, join his hometown Texas Rangers, or call it a career and retire.

Those were the three options Kershaw considered last offseason and that is what he will again mull this time around. The 35-year-old is already on record as saying he will only pitch for one of those two teams moving forward.

However, with the continuous injury problems, Kershaw may be pushed into retirement this time around. The want to continue pitching while injured this year could also signal he is planning on hanging the cleats up after the season.

Kershaw has previously refused to sign deals he felt he may not be able to fulfill, which is partly why he has taken his contracts season by season rather than signing a multi-year pact.

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