GLENDALE, Ariz. — Because for the 2024 Dodgers there is no such thing as enough stars, here was Clayton Kershaw standing before roughly 60 reporters Thursday explaining why he didn’t retire, why he did undergo the first surgery of his career and why he did not go to play for the Rangers near his Dallas home.
Instead, arguably the greatest pitcher in franchise history was back for Year 17 after undergoing left shoulder surgery on Nov. 3 to repair gleno-humeral ligaments.
Kershaw, who agreed to a contract that includes a 2025 player option, said he was two weeks into a throwing program and anticipates being back to the Dodgers in July or August.
So at what level of performance does the three-time NL Cy Young winner — 36 next month — anticipate returning?
“I expect to be good and I don’t know what [being himself] means anymore, but I expect to be good,” Kershaw said. “I’ve said it before, I don’t want to be average. I don’t want to just pitch to pitch. I want to be good. I want to contribute. I want to be a part of this and so yeah, my expectations are no concessions to just be good.”
What Kershaw wants to be part of is a team that has made the playoffs 11 straight years and refortified with a $1 billion-plus offseason investment in notably Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow.
Kershaw described himself as “damaged goods right now” and said he was particularly appreciative of how Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman stayed in touch with him all offseason.
In his last outing, Game 1 of the NL Division Series against Arizona, Kershaw was clobbered for six runs in one-third of an inning.
It felt like that might finalize his Dodger career, if not his whole career, especially after surgery was the only option given Kershaw if he wanted to do more than play catch with his kids.
The past few seasons Kershaw had been weighing whether to stay a Dodger, play for the Rangers (he was raised and remains a resident of the Dallas suburb, Highland Park; the home also of his friend and Texas GM Chris Young) or retire. In consultation with his wife, Ellen, Kershaw decided he wanted to play.
Kershaw was vague about how far he pursued anything with the Rangers.
But Texas did have a money crunch this offseason with uncertainty about its local TV revenue and already had three starters — Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle — who will miss a chunk of the season from the start while rehabbing on the injured list.
“I had to get away from the season a little bit,” Kershaw said. “It was still pretty tough, honestly [how it ended]. So, I had to get away for a good couple of weeks to really think about it and I didn’t want to go out that way.
“So that was ultimately how I came to [a decision to keep playing]. And then once we started gathering more information and realizing that surgery is probably the best option that gave me a little bit of clarity with everything and just decided to come back.”