With a little more wiggle room to prognostic this offseason thanks to the hot stove freeze, there’s time to sit back and explore some of the bigger question marks surrounding the Dodgers for 2022. The biggest question certainly lays within the starting rotation. Or lack thereof, really.
As we’ve stated here a few times over the winter, beyond Walker Buehler and Julio Urias atop the rotation, depth is stretched thin for Dave Roberts and the Dodgers. As it stands, Buehler and Urias will have some mix of Tony Gonsolin, David Price, and offseason acquisition Andrew Heaney behind them. Mitch White will pick up some more frequent flier miles next season as will Andre Jackson, who tossed only 11.2 innings in his debut season last year.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll omit Trevor Bauer from the running.
On the open market, long-time LA ace Clayton Kershaw remains and with questions of his own. Does he want to return to Dodger Stadium for a 15th season, play closer to his home and family in Dallas, Texas with the Rangers, or hang up the spikes and call it a career?
What we’ve learned about Clayton Kershaw over the years tells us that retirement probably isn’t in the cards just yet. Back in 2020 before the covid season got underway, Kershaw talked about his realization of how much he still loved playing the game. And, being the fierce competitor that he is, it’s easy to see him wanting to get his last few years of quality major league pitcher in before stepping away from the game. Plus he’s only 15 wins away from 200 in his career.
All that said, there is another key component to the Kershaw puzzle. He walked off the field hurt last season and never returned. Firstly, that can also be seen as a reason why he maybe wouldn’t quite be ready to walk away yet. He doesn’t want his last memory as a big leaguer to be this.
Clayton Kershaw exits game early with an apparent injury after going just 1.2 IP and throwing 42 pitches.
Nothing but positive vibes and well wishes for Kersh. ? #Dodgers
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) October 2, 2021
But the more important part of his moment is that it was the first elbow/forearm area injury of his career. Mid-October, Kershaw revealed that there was no damage to his elbow ligament (thankfully) but that he did receive a platelet rich plasma injection in his left forearm. With that would come a few months of inactivity before he could begin a light throwing program.
So, really, at this point, he still might not know quite where his arm is for the season coming up. Dodgers insider David Vassegh recently said that Kershaw is “still dealing with an arm issue” and that, while he “100%” expects him back in LA, it might not necessarily be to start the season. This is an idea I toyed with back in December. Could the left-hander take his time in returning to the Dodgers?
WATCH: Should Clayton Kershaw Return Later in the Season?
Back then I mentioned this.
One bold prediction could see the 33-year-old possibly remain home for the first month or so of the 2022 season before pulling a 2007 Roger Clemens and making a mid-season return. … Such a move allows Kershaw more time to rest and recover from an October PRP injection into his injured forearm/elbow area and slowly build back up early in the spring. Moreover, it frees him and the Dodgers from the pressure of trying to make an opening day start.
Back in October after the PRP injection, Clayton said that he expects to be good to go by spring training. But, maybe having him ramp up so soon could cost him a lot more down the road in the season when it matters more.
Despite the old postseason narrative, the left-hander was desperately missed last October.
Give it Few Months
In 2007, Roger Clemens — then 44 years old — signed mid-season with the Yankees and made his season debut in June. Clemens tossed 99 innings and helped New York secure the Wild Card spot in the AL. While Kershaw will be 10 years younger than that by the time the season rolls around, it’s important to note that he hasn’t eclipsed 200 innings since 2015. In fact, he’s only once topped 175 innings over that span (178.1 in 2019).
So, it’s easy to think that limiting Kershaw’s innings (without it being an injured list stint) could only benefit the oft-injured ace.
Like we mention in the above video, a big sticking point for Kersh would likely be, if he’s healthy, he’s not going to let his team play while he somewhat arbitrarily sits on the sidelines and watches for a month or two.