Clayton Kershaw maxes out at 90 MPH in return from disabled list, will have MRI on back

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Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw returned from the 10-day disabled list to start against the Phillies at home on Thursday, having missed almost all of the month of May with left biceps tendinitis. He went five innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts on 62 pitches.

It was an abbreviated outing by Kershaw’s standards, as he almost always throws 90-plus pitches, but it was understandable given that it was his first start back after nearly a month off. There may be more to the story, though, and it may not be good. Kershaw’s fastball topped out at 90 MPH on Thursday. He threw 28 four-seam fastballs which averaged just over 88 MPH, below his 2018 average of 91 MPH as well as his 2017 average of 92.7 MPH.

Kershaw struck out the side in his final inning, but his pitch selection was telling: of the 11 pitches he threw, only one was a fastball. He struck Jorge Alfaro out on three consecutive sliders. He went change-up, curve, slider to Aaron Nola. To finish out the inning, he went slider, slider, curve, fastball, change-up to Cesar Hernandez.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that Kershaw’s back tightened up during the game. He will undergo an MRI and will not travel with the team to open a six-game road trip, three of which will be against the Rockies at Coors Field.

Back issues are nothing new for Kershaw, but it has to be concerning for the Dodgers that it’s seemingly been one health problem after another for Kershaw in recent years. And for Kershaw, one wonders if the injury woes may make him hesitate to opt out of his contract after the season. If Kershaw doesn’t opt out, he’ll be under contract with the Dodgers in 2019-20 for a combined $65 million.

Royals outfielder Gordon to retire after 14 seasons

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Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, the former first-round pick whose rollercoaster career took him from near bust to All-Star and Gold Glove winner, announced Thursday he will retire after the season.

Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 first-year player draft following a standout career at Nebraska, where he won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur in baseball. He made his big league debut two years later and, after a few years shuttling back and forth to the minors, moved from third base to the outfield and finally found success.

He wound up playing his entire 14-year career in Kansas City, joining only George Brett and Frank White as position players with that much longevity with the franchise. He heads into a weekend four-game series against Detroit with the third-most walks (682), fourth-most homers (190), fifth-most doubles (357) and sixth-most games played (1,749) in club history.

The three-time All-Star also holds the dubious distinction of being the Royals’ career leader in getting hit by pitches.

While he never quite hit with the kind of average the Royals hoped he would, Gordon did through sheer grit turn himself into one of the best defensive players in the game. He is the only outfielder to earn seven Gold Gloves in a nine-year span, a number that trails only White’s eight for the most in franchise history, and there are enough replays of him crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium or throwing out a runner at the plate to run for hours.

Gordon won the first of three defensive player of the year awards in 2014, when he helped Kansas City return to the World Series for the first time since its 1985 championship. The Royals wound up losing to the Giants in a seven-game thriller, but they returned to the Fall Classic the following year and beat the Mets in five games to win the World Series.

It was during the 2015 that Gordon hit one of the iconic homers in Royals history. His tying shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1 forced extra innings, and the Royals won in 14 to set the tone for the rest of the World Series.

Gordon signed a one-year contract to return this season, and he never considered opting out when the coronavirus pandemic caused spring training to be halted and forced Major League Baseball to play a dramatically reduced 60-game schedule.

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