Clayton Kershaw Will Start the 2020 Season On the IL

Clayton Kershaw

The abbreviated season just got even more abbreviated for Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Instead of preparing to start the Opening Day game, Kershaw is nursing “back stiffness.” That is a very vague injury description, so we really do not know the extent of it yet. For example, a lot of times teams will report “forearm tightness” or “forearm discomfort,” which generally sound pretty mild. Shortly after that, it often gets reported that the pitcher is to undergo Tommy John surgery. Therefore, we have to take the mild-sounding “back stiffness” with the proverbial “grain of salt.” Kershaw has been on the IL eight times since his first stint in 2014. Out of those eight times, five were due to his lower back and occurred while he was pitching. So, the lower back has been a problem before.

Possible Good News

It is good news that the upper “back stiffness” occurred in the weight room rather than on the mound. However, it is bad enough to be put on the 10-day IL. People who have suffered upper back tightness via the weight room know that it could be just a few days. Those same people also know that it could easily be a few weeks, or even longer as in the case of a lat strain. More information on the actual extent of the “back stiffness” will come out in the next few days. The Dodgers are deep, but this is the second Cy Young winner out of the lineup. The first one was David Price, who opted out of the season due to COVID concerns, and now Kershaw is hurt. Dodgers fans everywhere hope he will only miss two starts.

The Dodgers “May” be okay without Kershaw

The Dodgers will look to the promising rookie, Dustin May, in the season opener. As mentioned in the Dodgers 2020 Season Preview, May was already slated for a lot of starts this year. His first one just came a little earlier than expected. The 22-year-old ranks 23rd amongst the 2020 MLB top 100 prospects. May performed pretty well in his “sip of coffee” last year, with four starts as well as 10 relief appearances. He threw 34 2/3 innings of 3.63 ERA, 1.096 WHIP baseball last year with 32 strikeouts.

May is tall and lanky — 6’6,” 180 lbs — allowing him to sling a 70-grade fastball into the triple digits. He also throws a mean cutter (graded 65) with a lot of movement and a grounder-inducing power curve (55). Dustin is still developing his changeup, which is coming along, but it has been said that his 1-2 punch is one of the best of all prospects. May is the first Dodger rookie to start the opener since Fernando Valenzuela did it in 1981.

2020 Outlook

The outlook for 2020 seems to remain largely the same in that the Dodgers are expected to win their eighth consecutive NL West title pretty easily regardless of how long Kershaw is out. As long as his injury is not serious, the two missed starts on the IL do not hurt much. May joins a strong rotation featuring Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, Julio Urias, and Walker Buehler, with Tony Gonsolin ready and waiting for his shot. Either way, the Dodgers are a force to be reckoned with. However, Kershaw will be missed while he is out despite how deep the Dodgers are. Hopefully the “back stiffness” is just that and he will miss the minimum time — returning to the mound for the Dodgers in nine days. We will follow his progress.

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