Clayton Kershaw is good. He’s always been good. But this year, the Dodgers ace has been on something of a career renaissance. Yes, his numbers were better overall last season (2.28 ERA in 2022 compared to 2.74 in 2023). But the biggest difference for Kershaw this year is in days spent on the injured list.
This year, that number is zero.
That has led to a happier Clayton Kershaw in 2023. After his 7 shutout inning performance against the Anaheim Angels on Tuesday night, he told reporters that some adjustments to his routine have helped him put together his healthiest season (so far) in years.
“It’s definitely more fun to be healthy than not. It’s definitely more fun to pitch well than not. Like I’ve said, I wouldn’t pitch if I didn’t think I could pitch well. I’ve had a good time so far (this season). Obviously, we’ve had our struggles but I think we still got a good ballclub and, personally, it’s been a fun group to play with for sure.”
You’d have to go back to 2015 to find the last season he didn’t spend any time on the IL. Then he was still only 27 and buttoning up a five year run where he put together an 88-33 record with a ridiculous 2.11 ERA over 159 starts. Now he’s 35 and coming off a seven year run where he struggled to surpass 22 starts per season.
So if he’s feeling better than ever, lock him up to a quick little multi-year extension, right? Not so fast. The future Hall of Famer isn’t even sure he’s pitching next season yet.
Ready to say you’re coming back next year, he was asked by a reporter on Tuesday.
“Not quite yet,” Kershaw said with a smile.
The Dodgers and Kershaw have agreed to one year deals in each of the last two offseasons. He’s said he enjoys the freedom of not committing to longer than his body can provide. If this season and his streak of good health so far is any indication of his future in baseball, it’s easy to see him putting together another few seasons of dominance.
Hopefully for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The front office has said on multiple occasions over the last couple of winters that they’ll welcome Clayton back for as long as he wants to keep coming back. Of course, he and his wife Ellen have four children and make their primary home in Texas in the offseason. For the pitcher, he’s felt the pull more and more each year to want to be closer to home and spend more time with his young family.
But he also still is fueled by the thrill of competition. And the Dodgers promise a competitive ball club year in and year out.
If the team can put together one more championship run in 2023, a 2024 return seems less likely for Kershaw. In that case, he could go out on his own terms as a two time World Series champion and wait five years for the Hall of Fame call and six years for the induction ceremony.
So, for now, “not quite yet” is all we’ll get when it comes to Clayton Kershaw saying he’ll be back one year from now.
most scoreless starts of 7+ IP, Dodgers since 1900:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 21, 2023
Clayton Kershaw: 64
Don Sutton: 63
Don Drysdale: 53