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Major league officials try to entice Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and others to pitch for Team USA

Major league officials try to entice Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and others to pitch for Team USA
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw stretches before a game against the Padres this season. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

Would the best pitcher in the world pitch in for his country, just for one game?

That is the pitch major league officials have informally presented to Clayton Kershaw, in the hope the Dodgers ace would consider joining Team USA in the World Baseball Classic next spring.

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The United States has flopped in the three previous editions of the WBC, losing in the semifinals once and failing to qualify for the semifinals twice, in large part because of the reluctance of stars to play. In losing its elimination game in the 2013 WBC, Team USA started Ryan Vogelsong.

In order to entice star pitchers such as Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and David Price, major league officials are in the process of changing WBC rules so teams can add two players before the second round, and two more before the semifinals.

The idea: Instead of missing up to three weeks of spring training, Kershaw could commit to starting the semifinal or final, then join Team USA for the final round, assuming the U.S. gets there. That could reduce his time away from the Dodgers to two or three days; the same schedule would be available to Bumgarner, Price and any other ace willing to commit to one start in either of the final two rounds.

"They're trying to make it more accessible," Kershaw said Saturday.

Kershaw said he has not decided whether he would participate.

"It's so far away," he said. "Health is the biggest thing, especially where you're at in the off-season."

In 2014, the Dodgers accelerated spring training so they could open the season in Australia.

"How'd that go?" Kershaw said.

Kershaw started the opener there March 22, then went on the disabled list for the only time in his career because of a strained muscle in his upper back.

"It would be awesome to get to represent your country," Kershaw said. "But the priority is always the season."

The joy of Puig

Yasiel Puig got his first day off, leaving Adrian Gonzalez as the only Dodgers player to start every game. Puig entered Saturday's game batting .366, and he ranked fourth in the National League with a .458 on-base percentage.

"He gets all the credit," Manager Dave Roberts said.

Roberts, in his first year as manager, said he did not buy into the image of Puig as a troubled soul. Roberts said there had to be good inside a player who so often engaged with children and gave his equipment to them.

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"You've got to love on him a little bit," Roberts said. "We've done that. He's been great. He's been a complete joy for me."

Third (base) party candidate?

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner is running for president, at least according to a T-shirt that reads: "Turner for President. Trust in Justin."

The company Fresh Brewed Tees has produced such shirts and slogans for 56 major leaguers, including Mike Trout ("I Like Mike") and Bryce Harper ("Make Baseball Fun Again.")

What would Turner's campaign promise be to Dodgers fans?

"Free parking," he said.

Injury updates

Roberts said Hyun-Jin Ryu suffered a strained groin; it is uncertain how much that might delay his already uncertain return from shoulder surgery. The Dodgers had not anticipated Ryu would return before June anyway. … Outfielder Carl Crawford (back) is expected to start a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday or Wednesday with triple-A Oklahoma City.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter: @BillShaikin

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