It came as a surprise to no one that when it was Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw‘s time to speak with the media on Wednesday morning after pitchers and catchers reported that he would draw the biggest crowd. And while the recent new dad (for the second time) was clearly upbeat about spring training and about the upcoming season, he was very specific about what he wants to accomplish this year.
“I’m not a big future guy, I just want to pitch this year. I want to make every start and I’ll do whatever I have to do to make the next start,” Kershaw said. “I’ll worry about the next years when I need to. If it costs me somewhere down the road, it does. But I’m here to make every start this year. I feel that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
The concerns are, of course, legitimate ones. As every Dodger fan knows, Kershaw missed 12 starts in 2016 due to what was diagnosed as a mild disk herniation in his lower back, a condition that both he and the Dodgers insist is no longer an issue.
“I think we can all say we’ve never seen a player like Clayton – physically, mentally – but there’s something to staying ahead of things,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters. “But also, he has a way to execute … and consistently. I can’t speak to what’s going on in his mind, what he’s thinking about going forward, but I know right now he’s expecting to do what he’s done in the past.
“He stays ahead of things, but with that he still has the ability to narrow the focus and scope with what’s going on – his work day-to-day – and that’s what kind of separates him,” added the Dodgers skipper.
But might there be a downside to this? A narrow focus and scope for the soon-to-be 29-year-old / nine-year major league veteran?
“In that context there’s been many conversations with the training staff with his regiment. It’s been amended a little bit,” Roberts said. “He’s very intelligent and understands his body better than anybody, and with that constant communication there’s been some changes. But I think that when you’re talking about his health, I don’t think that there’s any danger.”
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman echoed the sentiments of his manager.
“There’s nobody, I would argue, in baseball that does more in the off-season and between starts to put 200 plus innings on the body and be strong in October than [Kershaw] does,” said Friedman.
From a mechanical standpoint Kershaw said that he has another goal for the 2017 season – one that opposing hitters are definitely not going to like.
“I worked on my change-up. Every off-season I say my change-up’s getting better,” Kershaw said with a laugh. “So maybe I’ll throw one this year. It looks great in the bullpen.”
Kershaw may be laughing about his change-up, but if he dials it in, you can bet that those who have to face it won’t be laughing. In fact, they may be crying.
…all the way back to the dugout.