Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw won’t take part in World Baseball Classic

Clayton Kershaw throws during the first day of spring training workouts.
Clayton Kershaw throws on the first day of spring training workouts for Dodgers pitchers and catchers Thursday in Arizona.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after all.

The future Hall of Fame left-hander made the announcement Friday at Dodgers spring training, calling the development “super disappointing” after spending the last three months preparing to play for Team USA in next month’s event.

Although Kershaw declined to provide specific reasons for his inability to participate, people with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because they were unauthorized to speak publicly said the pitcher had a problem finalizing insurance coverage required for the event. His back-injury history was a significant factor, the people said.


Kershaw said he even tried to “work it out on my own” before resigning to Friday’s announcement.

“We tried a lot of different things, all sides, really tried to make it work,” Kershaw explained while standing in front of his locker at the team’s Camelback Ranch complex. “Nothing is wrong with me. It just didn’t work out. I really wanted to do it.”

Kershaw’s announcement came a day after Team USA general manager Tony Reagins told the Los Angeles Times that the left-hander, who has never played for the U.S. before in the international competition, was facing undisclosed “challenges” to get cleared for the event.

Earlier this week, Kershaw also alluded to “complications” that had left his status for the tournament suddenly unclear.

Follow along for the latest news and analysis from Dodgers spring training at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix ahead of the 2023 MLB season.

Feb. 17, 2023

Although Kershaw wanted to play in the event, and had gotten a go-ahead from Dodgers brass to do so, his insurance problem proved unresolvable.

Insurance is required for WBC participants on 40-man rosters of MLB clubs in order to protect teams against injuries players could suffer.


Insurance issues have caused problems in other iterations of the tournament and can become especially complicated for players such as Kershaw who have a history of injury problems.

Kershaw’s back has ailed him repeatedly in recent seasons, including last year when he twice spent a month on the injured list for various problems.

Kershaw is also only a year-and-a-half removed from a significant elbow injury that sidelined him most of the second half of the 2021 season, as well as the playoffs.

This spring, however, Kershaw said he arrived at camp feeling “100%” after completing a normal offseason throwing program.

He downplayed the impact that his planned WBC participation would have on his regular-season preparation, noting he didn’t have to work out any earlier than usual.

Clayton Kershaw throws a pitch during the first day of spring training workouts for Dodgers pitchers and catchers.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

He said he had grown excited to play in the star-studded event, which was last held in 2017 and never had been something Kershaw seriously considered entering.

“[This is] probably my last chance to get to do it, so I really wanted to,” Kershaw said, noting he had been talking with other Team USA members leading up to the event.

“It’s just such a great group that it would have been really fun to be a part of,” Kershaw added. “It’s almost like an All-Star Game with meaning. I was getting really excited about it.”

After committing to play for Team USA in December, and being highlighted as one of the team’s biggest stars when official rosters were released this month, Kershaw hadn’t expected to face any challenges in finalizing his participation.

He declined to say exactly when issues with his entry arose, but the hold-up surfaced publicly during Kershaw’s first spring comments this week.

“There’s some complications right now,” he had said Wednesday. “Still working through some of that stuff now. I don’t have any finite answers.”


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Feb. 15, 2023

Kershaw said that, as he explored ways in recent days to still play for Team USA, he had the support of Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and was communicating with both MLB’s league office as well as the MLB Players’ Assn.

“Everybody worked hard to try and make it work,” he said. “Just wasn’t able to.”

In response to a question about his frustration level with the process, Kershaw also argued that the WBC — which is sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation and International Softball Confederation in partnership with MLB — should make it easier for players who want to participate to do so.

“Obviously, if [your MLB] team doesn’t want you to play, that’s one thing,” he said. “But if you have the team’s blessing like I did, it should be easier.”

The Dodgers still have eight other players from their 40-man roster slated to play in the event: Mookie Betts and Will Smith for Team USA, Julio Urías and Austin Barnes for Mexico, Miguel Rojas and David Peralta for Venezuela, Freddie Freeman for Canada, and Trayce Thompson for Britain.

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Feb. 15, 2023

Few other WBC stars, though, were as highly anticipated as Kershaw. He was eager, healthy and had his club’s approval.

Based on the dejected look he wore Friday, even he struggled to understand why that wasn’t enough.


“I didn’t think there would be any issues,” Kershaw said. “But things happen.”

Staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.