Ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who was sidelined by a sore shoulder, will make his first start of the season when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
In addition to Kershaw’s season debut, this game will also be fun-to-watch because Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp will return to Los Angeles for the first time since getting traded to the Reds.
Also, Luis Castillo, tonight’s starter for the Reds has pitched extremely in three starts this season, posting an 0.92 ERA and an 0.66 WHIP after giving up just two earned runs in 19 2/3 innings and he’s averaging 11.44 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9), so his pitching matchup on Jackie Robinson Day against Kershaw should be exciting.
Kershaw signed a three-year, $93 million extension with the Dodgers in November and he was named the Opening Day starter for the ninth consecutive season but shoulder inflammation prevented him from extending that streak and instead, he used the extra time he had to rebuild his arm strength before returning.
The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner and one-time Most Valuable Player heads a starting rotation that includes Walker Buehler, Ross Stripling, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias.
Hill and Ryu are on the injured list, so Kershaw’s return will help fill their void and once they come back the Dodgers will have seven pitchers fighting for five rotation spots.
Kershaw Has Something to Prove
Clayton Kershaw hasn’t made at least 30 starts since 2015, but he’s still been an effective pitcher. He went 9-5 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, recording 155 strikeouts over 161 1/3 innings last season and the Dodgers need him back to his best possible form in order to reach their third straight World Series.
This will be Kershaw’s 12th season in the majors and he’s coming off a third consecutive year interrupted by injury. The left-hander didn’t make the National League All-Star team for the first time after seven consecutive selections and he finished lower than fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting for the first time in seven years.
Kershaw still had a season that most pitchers would envy, winning nine games, posting an ERA under three and totaling 191 1/3 innings, including the postseason. He had a dip in velocity and strikeout ratio but still finished the regular season ranking fourth in ERA, third in strikeout-to-walk ratio and fourth in opponents’ on-base percentage.
He finished the regular season strong, going 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA, recording 77 strikeouts against 12 walks, posting a 1.00 WHIP and holding batters to a .227/.255/.365 slash line in 13 second half starts. Kershaw is 153-69 with a 2.39 ERA in 318 career games (316 starts).