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Clayton Kershaw feels bad you couldn’t see him pitch a perfect game

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. Kershaw says he understand why fans were disappointed he didn’t get a chance to pitch a perfect game.
(Craig Lassig / Associated Press)
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On the day after the Dodgers removed Clayton Kershaw six outs from a perfect game, Kershaw said he felt bad — not for himself, but for you.

“The only thing I feel bad for is, if I was a fan, I would want to see somebody finish the game,” Kershaw said Thursday, ahead of the Dodgers’ home opener against the Cincinnati Reds. “So, from a fan’s perspective, I do feel bad for that. I wish I could have done it. But yesterday wasn’t the day.”

Kershaw and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agreed that seven innings against the Minnesota Twins was enough for a pitcher whose injury kept him out of last season’s playoffs and delayed his winter throwing program. Kershaw threw 11 2/3 innings in the lockout-shortened Cactus League.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did the right thing by removing Clayton Kershaw after he pitched seven perfect innings during his team’s 7-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

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Would two more spring starts have made enough of a difference to have allowed him to stay in Wednesday’s game?

“Maybe even one more, honestly,” Kershaw said. “Where we’re at and, honestly, the way my season ended last year, not being able to be a part of October. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I came back, to be ready for that.

“Every decision that we make is geared toward that month of the season, for us. And so, with all that into consideration, that’s how we came about it.”

He said there was no way to know how much risk he might have taken by pitching beyond the seventh inning Wednesday.

“I could have thrown nine innings and been fine for the rest of the season,” he said. “I could have thrown two innings yesterday and be hurt the next day. Nobody knows.

“But, in the moment, it felt like that was the right call for my personal health, the best interests of the team, and me being ready in October. It all seemed like the right call at the time.”

Roberts defended the decision again Thursday.

“I wish it could have been a week later, or a couple starts later,” Roberts said. “I didn’t say what if [I left him in] … It was the right decision and I would do the same thing again.”

When Gavin Lux made a fine defensive play in the seventh inning, Kershaw said he felt the possibility of a perfect game had become “a little more real.

“But I also knew that my time was running out.”

He said he appreciated the history of the perfect game. Of the more than 222,000 games played in major league history, 23 have been perfect games.

“It’s a special thing,” Kershaw said. “I don’t take that for granted. I understand the history of the game. I understand what it means in the game of baseball. There’s only been 20-something in history. I get that. The individual stuff is not why I continue to play the game. I want to win. That supersedes anything individual for me right now.”

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Minnesota Twins.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning Wednesday.
(Craig Lassig / Associated Press)

Roberts hopes that will be the attitude that permeates throughout the clubhouse all season — especially when it comes from the 15-year veteran and three-time Cy Young Award winner.

“He’s one of the best pitchers of our generation,” Roberts said. “And what he said yesterday really set the tone for the 2022 Dodgers, that he’s here to win, and anything other than that would be selfish. When you’re talking about a person who’s done everything in the game, for him to say that, that resonates in our clubhouse.”

Another player who parroted that mindset Thursday: Reliever Alex Vesia, who gave up the only Twins hit in Wednesday’s game despite pitching a scoreless inning of relief in his season debut.

“That’s the fine line,” Vesia said. “It’s all good though. Our biggest goal is to win every single day. We came out of there with a win, everybody is healthy, everyone is going to keep competing. That’s a win in all departments.”

Kershaw did acknowledge it would have been harder for him to leave a perfect game had the game been played 10 years ago. What if the game had been played at Dodger Stadium?

Dodgers score six runs in eighth, thanks in part to Will Smith’s three-run homer, and improve to 4-2 on the season.

“It’s hard no matter what,” he said. “But, yeah, if I was bringing my son to the game and there was a perfect game going on? That’s why you come to the games, to see something special. That’s why you come to the ballpark. From a fan’s perspective, I get it. It’s tough to swallow.

“But, hopefully, when we’re winning the World Series in October, it’ll mean something.”

Did Kershaw think about the game when he woke up Thursday?

“A little bit,” he said, smiling.

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