How quickly spring training shifts from the “Best Shape of His Life” stage to the “Players Being Injured” stage.
A’s closer Grant Balfour will miss 4-6 weeks following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, which apparently bothered him at the end of last season and then continued to be an issue when he started throwing this week.
Balfour might have time to be ready for Opening Day and if not he shouldn’t miss many games. Oakland has good bullpen depth anyway, with Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle as the most likely fill-in closers.
Balfour came into last season with just 10 career saves through age 33, but saved 24 games with a 2.53 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 75 innings. Dating back to 2008 he has a 2.78 ERA in 318 innings while holding opponents to a .191 batting average.
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.