Managers of contenders and non-contenders alike often talk about wanting to put their best lineups on the field late in the season out of some sense of fairness to other teams, but not Davey Johnson.
Johnson told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that once the Nationals lock up the division title he’s going to rest regulars even if other people think that might be helping one of their late-season opponents like the Cardinals:
I really don’t give a rat’s ass what somebody thinks about my club and who I put on the field to either help somebody else or I’m not supposed to rest my regulars after we clinch it, I’m resting my regulars. End of conversation.
Fair enough. You win a division so convincingly that you can essentially take the final week off and … well, you’ve earned it. Tough for anyone that might hurt, but resting regulars in baseball isn’t quite like doing the same in basketball or even football. It’s not as if Johnson has trotted out the same lineup for 150 games already. And of course in the Nationals’ case their previously choosing to “rest” Stephen Strasburg will overshadow, say, Adam LaRoche getting a couple days off.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.