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Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler Discussed Opening Day Nod

There was no wrong answer, but Doc chose the right one.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 20: Pitcher Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses for a portrait during MLB media day on February 20, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It was always going to be Clayton Kershaw, not that it means that Walker Buehler isn’t worthy. After Dodgers manager Dave Roberts officially named Kershaw to his record-extending ninth opening day start on Monday, words were spilled all over the internet about whether it was the right call.

Moreover, the wonder was if it was just, in fact, out of “charity” that the Dodger veteran was selected over the 25-year-old Buehler.

It turns out, the two pitchers and their manager discussed this at length.

Kersh continued.

It’s cool. I feel like I say it every year, but I don’t take it lightly. It is an honor. It is just one game, but it is an honor to get the start. Opening Day is a special day in baseball and to get to be part of it is really cool.

2019 was an outlier for the 31-year-old ace. He opened the season on the injured list and wasn’t the opening day starter for the first time since 2010.

It was hard a little bit. You want to be a part of it. It was also kind of fun to take in an opening day — especially how well it went. I think we hit seven or eight homers. So it was really fun doing that. But, yeah, it was a little sad. I got over it quickly. But it was a little sad, for sure.

While Walker Buehler is obviously ready for the call at any time — and can handle the pressure of a big game with the best of them — Kershaw is no slouch when it comes to opening day nods. From 2011-2018, Kershaw posted a 5-1 record with a 1.05 ERA, and 59 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched on the season’s first game.

In fact, he’s no slouch at all. Last year the long-time ace became the Dodgers’ franchise leader in pitching wins for a left-handed pitcher, surpassing Sandy Koufax. The guy is an all-time legend in the game of baseball…

But the opening day nod wasn’t necessarily purely based on past accolades.

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Clayton has tossed 4.2 impressive innings of scoreless ball this spring in Cactus League play. Additionally, he added 3.1 scoreless in a backfield start on Monday afternoon at Camelback Ranch. After an offseason spent being mostly healthy for the first time in some time, the lefty has been working to mix in an analytical approach to pitching he picked up after a visit to Driveline Baseball. 

While he was not bad in 2019 (16-5, 3.03 ERA, 178.1 IP, 28 GS, 3.5 bWAR), he continued a slow fall from league-wide dominance. On the other hand, Walker Buehler continued his ascent to stardom and firmly entrenched himself as one of the elite young arms in the game (14-4, 3.26 ERA, 182.1 IP, 30 GS, 2.2 bWAR).

However, Walker hasn’t been as sharp early this spring as evidenced by his small sample sized 4.15 ERA in 2 games (2 runs in 4.1 IP).

Using this point, you could presume that Kershaw has outperformed the younger Buehler and, in fact, earn the opening day based on merit alone. But make no mistakes, Clayton Kershaw earned this start for being “2014 NL MVP, 3-time Cy Young award winner” Clayton Kershaw. And that’s perfectly fine.

NEXT: A Computer Predicts the 2020 Season

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

One Comment

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  1. Kershaw still the man this year and next year tioo.You guys keep inflating Buhler but he’s not consistent to be the ace,hopefully this year he starts better than last year when his era was over 7.00 first month.And hopefully he has more stamina cause he starts tiring after 5 innings.Been saying for last few months Kershaw will win Cy Young again and 20+ games also said he would regain a few miles on his fastball and he was hitting 92 and as high as 93 so I’m sure he’ll hit 93 and 94 and last time his fastball hit those numbers his era was way below 2.00.

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