Howdy everyone, and welcome to the Friday edition of the Los Angeles Times daily sports newsletter. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m your host for the festivities. Subscribe to this newsletter by clicking here.
Let’s get to it.
Clayton Kershaw may not ever be the same pitcher he was three years ago, but he has remained the same humanitarian.
Two weeks before he reported to spring training, Kershaw was invited to the Dominican Republic’s National Palace and granted an audience with President Danilo Medina. The president listened to his concerns about child sex trafficking in the country and assured him his office would support the International Justice Mission’s efforts.
“It was a very eye-opening trip, all the way around,” Kershaw said. “Very fortunate that baseball means so much.”
His meeting with the president was featured on the country’s television news programs. Photographs of him presenting Medina with an autographed jersey were printed in the daily newspapers. His message spread.
A day after meeting the president, Kershaw participated in a news conference that also included the attorney general of the Dominican Republic and the U.S. ambassador to the island nation.
“I love this game, I love getting to play this game,” Kershaw said. “But it’s only as important as what you do with it, if that makes sense. There’s so many people you can reach just because you’re gifted with the ability to throw a baseball. I try to remember that and these trips help me.
“There’s nothing I did to deserve to be able to throw a baseball. Those talents were something that were just completely given to me. Yeah, you can work at it and get better at it, but you either can do that or you can’t.”
Read more of this story by Dylan Hernandez by clicking here.
Shohei Ohtani will soon be medically cleared to begin his rehab as a pitcher, manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday.
Ohtani has not thrown since he had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1. He has spent the last month of spring training in Arizona focusing on hitting — that is all he will do for the Angels this season — and strengthening the right side of his body.
It usually takes pitchers four to six months after elbow reconstruction to begin a throwing program, but Ohtani was a special case. The Angels had to be cautious.
”I think it was always imminent,” Ausmus said. “It’s on the sooner side [now].”
Blake Richardson tells the sad story of linebacker Mique Juarez:
“During UCLA’s football season, all of linebacker Mique Juarez’s efforts were directed toward one goal — playing again.
“Juarez appeared in the Bruins’ 2018 opener but was sidelined for the rest of the season after sustaining a concussion. In that time, he did every rehabilitation exercise and passed every test, he said, indicating a smooth recovery.
“But near the end of October, Juarez’s doctor delivered news that shocked him.
“He was saying, ‘It’s best if you don’t play football anymore,’ ” Juarez said Thursday.
“Juarez wanted to play anyway, but when he spoke to Chip Kelly, the UCLA coach said the decision was irreversible, Juarez said.
“If you were to come back to play football, like you’re not gonna start,” Juarez recalled Kelly saying. “I’m not gonna play you. I’m not gonna take that risk on you getting hurt again.’’
“Juarez appreciated Kelly’s concern, but he disagreed.
“That shouldn’t be up to you,” Juarez said. “That should be up to the player if he still wants to play football. This is his career, not your career.”
Juarez is one of four players who are no longer part of the program, Kelly announced Thursday morning. The others are defensive linemen Rick Wade, Marcus Moore and Moses Robinson-Carr. Kelly said Wade, a redshirt junior, graduated, Moore took a medical retirement and Robinson-Carr was dismissed from the team.
Odds and Ends
Testing begins at Santa Anita, site of 21 horse fatalities since late December…. LeBron James’ historic night came with a meme-able moment for Alex Caruso…. Angels' Albert Pujols has shown progress in spring training since his surgery…. Two more schools are linked to college basketball bribery probe in court filing…. USC's new football coaches are learning about L.A. and their old coaches are learning a new offense…. Winning is old hat for Mark O'Meara as PGA Tour Champions hits Newport Beach…. Clippers have 16 games to improve their seeding for the Western Conference playoffs…. Sedrick Altman, Onyeka Okongwu among players to watch at state basketball championships…. Boxer Danny Garcia will face Adrian Granados next month in Carson…. UCLA lost to Colorado in men’s basketball, 93-68…. Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka took different journeys over last year to become No. 1 in world…. The Kings lost to the St. Louis Blues, 4-0…. The USC men’s basketball team lost to Utah, 83-74.
Today’s local major sports schedule (all times Pacific)
Oklahoma City at Clippers, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570
Dodgers vs. Kansas City, 6 p.m. Sportsnet LA
Angels vs. Chicago White Sox, noon, FSW, KLAA 830
Montreal at Ducks, 7 p.m., FSW, ESPN+
Born on this date
1922: Former Dodger Carl Furillo
1939: Baseball player/author Jim Bouton
1942: Baseball player Dick Allen
1953: Baseball player Jim Rice
1957: Runner Ruth Wysocki
1960: NBA player Buck Williams
1961: NHL player Larry Murphy
1970: NFL player Jason Elam
1974: Former USC football coach Steve Sarkisian