The best pitcher in baseball arrives at spring training on Wednesday.
Clayton Kershaw, who missed out on a Cy Young award in 2016 due to a back injury, is fully healthy and ready to roll.
Another offseason down… have to thank my trainer once again for her incredible work! pic.twitter.com/LgCfWvBx10
— Clayton Kershaw (@ClaytonKersh22) February 14, 2017
Kershaw pitched in a career-low 21 games last season, though he finished 12-4 with a microscopic 1.69 ERA. Kershaw was on pace for one of the greatest season of all-time before leaving his June 26 start versus Pittsburgh in pain. He was on track to the MLB record for strikeout to walk ratio.
He didn’t return until September, but the Dodgers picked up the slack, going 38-24 and building a two-game lead in the West by the time he rejoined the rotation. Kershaw returned to form quickly, and was the difference in the Dodgers advancing past Washington. Kershaw came out of the bullpen to finish the Nationals off in game 5.
“I had an injury and it’s not injured anymore, so now you keep going,” Kershaw said via MLB.com on his conditioning. “I’m not having to subtract very much. It’s different and just adding more stuff just to keep healthy. I think every player, as you get older, has to do that. Regardless of the back or not, that’s what I’d be doing.”
Kershaw leads a rotation that consists of the re-signed Rich Hill, phenom Julio Urias and sophomore Kenta Maeda. The No. 5 slot will be a competition among a handful of starters in the system.
A decade’s worth of success has still left Kershaw ringless. The soon-to-be 29 year old has accomplished about everything but winning a championship. For Kershaw and the Dodgers, anything less than that trophy will make 2017 a failure.