Clayton Kershaw shakes off early rust in 'efficient' outing for Los Angeles Dodgers after back in...

ByJoon Lee via ESPN logo
Friday, September 2, 2022

NEW YORK -- With the Dodgers searching for depth in the rotation following the placement of pitcher Tony Gonsolin on the injured list, Los Angeles finds itself needing more reinforcement among its starting pitching.

That pressure placed increased importance on the return of Clayton Kershaw from the injured list on Thursday, facing off against the New York Mets. And while the Dodgers dropped the game 5-3, Kershaw provided a seed of optimism, going five innings, allowing one hit and one earned run while walking three batters and striking out six.

"No matter how much preparation you do, there's really no simulation for a big league game," Kershaw said.

Kershaw struggled in his first inning, allowing a hit while walking three batters, one of which brought home the first run for the Mets. The run Kershaw walked home was just the seventh of his career, and his first since 2015.

The rust seemed to fade after the first-inning struggles, as Kershaw looked vintage for the rest of the game, retiring the last 13 batters he faced in the order. He finished his start having thrown 74 pitches, including 46 strikes with 13 swings and misses. After struggling with his command in the first inning, his slider looked sharp and the Dodgers lefty spotted his fastball across the strike zone.

"I thought the stuff was good, as far as the fastball," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "The slider was good. ... I mean he was kind of what we hoped for from the get go. He was efficient. There were strikeouts in there. He had a really good rhythm. Overall talking to the training staff afterwards, he felt good. There was more to the fastball than I expected for tonight. I thought very positive."

Kershaw missed a month after the Dodgers placed him on the injured list in early August with a lower back injury, and previously missed a month earlier this season with right SI joint inflammation. No issues flared up with the back on Thursday in his first return to action.

"I feel great right now. Really, it took me about a week to feel good after that last one," Kershaw said. "It's not an easy thing to deal with all the time, but you know for right now, I feel great and don't expect that to change."

The return of Kershaw comes at a critical time for the Dodgers rotation with Walker Buehler out for the season and Gonsolin joining the injured list with a forearm injury earlier this week. Kershaw rejoins a Dodgers rotation that will be depending on Julio Urías, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson and Dustin May for quality starts as the team prepares for the postseason.