Clayton Kershaw logged a three-inning simulated game and a fourth inning in the bullpen at Dodger Stadium on Saturday afternoon, clearing the final hurdle before he takes the mound for a rehab start with a minor league affiliate. The location still hasn’t been decided — he’ll pitch for either double-A Tulsa or triple-A Oklahoma City — but the day has been chosen. It’ll be on Thursdaym when both affiliates begin their seasons. So Kershaw, who wasn’t the Dodgers’ opening day starter this season for the first time since 2010, will start on an opening day after all.
“Yeah,” he said. “Woohoo.”
Kershaw said the destination will depend on logistics. Whether he’ll need a second outing will depend on his performance and where he fits in the Dodgers’ schedule. Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw will throw his standard bullpen session in two days. He will then log four or five innings Thursday. The length will depend on his efficiency.
“It’s just seeing how he responds,” Roberts said. “As far as you’re looking at the wincing and making sure he feels healthy number one and most importantly.”
Kershaw threw 50 pitches over three innings Saturday in front of a crowd of teammates, coaches, and executives. He faced Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson and a trio of minor leagues, going into the dugout between innings to imitate a real game as much as a real game can be imitated in that dull setting after not appearing in a Cactus League game in Arizona.
“I think you definitely get your work in,” Kershaw, 31, said. “You throw your pitches. You get up and down, which is the most important thing. As far as like intensity or adrenaline that you might have, there’s always probably a tick more when you’re doing a spring training game against another team with fans in the stands and things like that. So a minor league rehab game will mimic that a little bit.”
Kershaw said he focused on the depth to his breaking pitches. He reported that his curveball and slider improved Saturday as his sim game went along. He said his mechanics out of the windup were synchronized, but his arm wasn’t catching up out of the stretch.
“My stretch is a little bit fast,” Kershaw said. “Not much of a leg kick so just making sure the arm catches up. Something to work on.”
Kershaw will have a chance to work on it in Oklahoma City or Tulsa on Thursday, on another opening day.
Next for Hill
Roberts said Rich Hill is slated to throw a bullpen session “early next week.” Hill is on the injured list with a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. The left-hander has played catch on flat ground, but hasn’t tested his knee on a mound since a bullpen session March 19.
“That’s something where it’s more the lateral, off the slope, where it gets the medial, inside part of the knee,” Roberts said. “But running straight forward, keeping his arm in shape, which he’s doing, ball’s still coming out. He’s built up.”
Ringing it in
Roberts, Dodgers owner Mark Walker, team president Stan Kasten, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman presented players with their 2018 National League champion rings in the team’s clubhouse before the start of Saturday’s game. Last season, the club presented the players with the pennant rings with an on-field ceremony before a game.