LOS ANGELES ― For three months and three days, Clayton Kershaw managed to avoid the injured list. At age 35, he was defying Father Time and his own injury history all at once.
That changed Monday, when the Dodgers placed Kershaw on the 15-day IL with left shoulder soreness. Kershaw will not pitch again before the All-Star break.
By backdating his IL stint to June 30, Kershaw is eligible to pitch during the Dodgers’ series against the Mets in New York, their first series after the All-Star break.
“Any time you have to take time off it’s frustrating,” Kershaw said. “Disappointing. Just the way the season was going, I had hoped I could make it through a full season. I haven’t done that in a while. It’s always something I want to do. Anytime it doesn’t work out, it’s definitely frustrating for me, but where we’re at in the season with the break, it’s probably a good thing to take a little break now.
Right-hander Michael Grove was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City and started Monday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Kershaw’s place.
The Dodgers also recalled right-hander Gavin Stone from Oklahoma City with the intention of using him in a potential long-relief situation if needed. Stone was 2-4 with a 6.71 ERA at Oklahoma City, where he was used exclusively as a starter. Left-handed reliever Victor Gonzalez was optioned to Triple-A.
Kershaw was the only member of the Dodgers’ season-opening rotation who had avoided the IL so far, and he was their best pitcher when healthy. His 10 wins lead the National League. His 2.55 ERA ranks third and is remarkably in line with his 2.48 career ERA – the lowest among active qualified pitchers.
On Sunday, Kershaw was named to his 10th National League All-Star team. He said he will still attend the game in Seattle with his family, but lamented being unable to pitch with his children watching.
“I wish I could’ve skipped a start and made the next one but that’s not where we’re at,” he said. “Sometimes roster decisions take precedent, and I understand that.”
The injury surfaced on one of the 79 pitches Kershaw threw against the Colorado Rockies last Thursday in Denver, Manager Dave Roberts said.
Kershaw made two trips to the injured list last season, once in May and again in August, for ailments related to his back. He has not been placed on the IL with a shoulder-related injury since 2019, though the three-time Cy Young Award winner said Saturday he has had “shoulder stuff” before, received injections for it before, and pitched through injuries at times.
The last year in which Kershaw avoided the IL entirely was 2015.
“I would’ve loved to have had a few more days to make a decision, to give it a little more time,” he said. “(Monday) probably wasn’t going to be an option just because I had to take a few days off on my front end” after receiving an injection Thursday to relieve inflammation.
“I don’t know if I could’ve pitched this week or not,” Kershaw said. “I would’ve liked to have tried, obviously. That was a little bit above my pay grade.”
CALL IN THE RIGHTY?
The Dodgers weren’t the only team to lose a pitcher Monday. The NL All-Star team is down an arm too, and the league will have to choose a pitcher to take Kershaw’s spot on the roster.
Roberts lobbied for Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips to take Kershaw’s place. The 28-year-old reliever has never made an All-Star team before. This year, as the Dodgers’ primary closer, Phillips is 11 for 12 in save situations with a 1.91 ERA.
Nine NL relievers began the week with more saves, but Roberts believes Phillips’ usage pattern is a credit to his value.
“We could’ve easily made Evan the dedicated closer to accrue saves,” Roberts said, “but what he’s done to buy into our team and pitch in highest-leverage (situations) every time he’s out there has been, I would argue, more valuable than a closer. He’s facing the toughest part of the lineup every time he’s out there.
“A closer, you could face the bottom (of the lineup), it could be a three-run lead. Every time (Phillips) is out there, it’s the highest leverage (situation).”
Phillips has appeared in 17 high-leverage situations, more than any right-handed pitcher in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Left-hander Caleb Ferguson has also appeared in 17 high-leverage situations but is 2 for 3 in save chances with a 3.00 ERA.
Grove will either start or “open” Saturday’s game against the Angels, Roberts said. … Jason Heyward got his 12th start of the season in center field. Roberts said he preferred Heyward over rookie James Outman, who went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in his only prior game against Pirates starter Mitch Keller. … Infielder Jahmai Jones, who opted out of his minor league contract with the Dodgers over the weekend, signed a major league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Pirates (RHP Luis Ortiz, 2-3, 4.11 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Emmet Sheehan, 2-0, 2.65 ERA), Tuesday, 6:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM