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.