GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — After an injury-interrupted 2016 season, Clayton Kershaw hopes to remain healthy this season.
“I’m here to make every start this year,” the Los Angeles Dodgers ace said Wednesday after reporting for spring training. “I feel like that’s what I’m here to do.”
Kershaw threw a bullpen session, a day ahead of the official start of workouts for pitchers and catchers.
He did not pitch for the Dodgers from June 26 until Sept. 9 last year because of a herniated disk in his back. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner went 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA, then made four starts and one relief appearance in the playoffs.
“I’m doing good,” said Kershaw, who turns 29 on March 19. “I’m excited to give the back a good test this spring. But there’s no worries or concerns for me.”
The physical regimen has changed some for the six-time All-Star, who has thrown 1,760 regular-season innings during nine major league seasons.
“The routine is a little different, yeah, but no drastic changes, which is great,” Kershaw said. “I feel like I’m still able to get the work in. I’m a little more aware. Instead of my pushing through stuff, I’m just a little more aware. For the most part, not a lot has changed.”
Kershaw threw off the mound four or five times before arriving in Arizona. His wife, Ellen, gave birth to a son, Charley, in November, their second child.
“One was tough,” Kershaw joked. “Two is just adding to the chaos.”
He sees familiarity in the Dodgers clubhouse as the team tries to reach the World Series for the first time since winning the 1988 World Series title.
Kershaw was happy Los Angeles kept closer Kenley Jansen, infielder Justin Turner and pitcher Rich Hill, and is in the process of finalizing a deal to re-sign infielder Chase Utley. Kershaw was intrigued by the addition of pitcher Sergio Romo, who completed a $3 million, one-year contract on Wednesday.
“Having those guys, and having Chase back after everybody had written it off, that it wouldn’t work out, is such an added bonus,” Kershaw said. “Everybody talks about intangibles, but I really mean it, regardless of how Chase plays, what he does in the clubhouse is the best I’ve ever seen.”
Romo adds bullpen depth after leaving the San Francisco Giants to join their rival.
“It’s a different look,” Kershaw said. “They love spin rate here, and we’ve got a lot of spin rate, high-fastball pitchers. Now we’ve got a guy that can paint a slider and get guys out. Nice to have him around, for sure.”
Kershaw figures to make his seventh straight opening-day start, which would match the club record Don Sutton set from 1972-78. Don Drysdale made seven — but not consecutively — from 1958-69.
Hill and Kenta Maeda are likely to follow in the rotation, but the final two slots are unclear. Julio Urias, a 20-year-old who debuted last year, is possibility as is Hyun-jin Ryu, who is coming off elbow surgery.
Notes: Former Dodgers pitcher and current broadcaster Orel Hershiser will work as a spring training instructor, a job Greg Maddux had last spring training. Maddux is working with his son, Chase, a sophomore pitcher at UNLV. . Kershaw thought about pitching for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic. “It’s an honor and I want to do it,” he said, “but I though it was best not to.”