Should Clayton Kershaw pitch again in 2012?
Will Clayton Kershaw have surgery on his ailing right hip?
After visiting orthopedic surgeon Brian Kelly in New York on Tuesday (Sept. 18), Kershaw and the Dodgers received no definitive answers as to whether he should undergo a procedure to repair an impingement in his injured hip.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez, the Dodgers released a statement that said Dr. Kelly felt Kershaw could continue to pitch this season without causing further damage to his hip. However, the team will not allow Kershaw to pitch while he's still feeling pain.
Before Wednesday's doubleheader versus the Washington Nationals, Kershaw told USA Today's Paul White that he intends to pitch again this season. It's understandable why he would want to. As of Sept. 19, the Dodgers were 1.5 games away from the National League's second wild-card playoff spot. He could make the difference in qualifying for the postseason.
To Kershaw, that surely makes it worth trying to pitch through the pain. Yet the Dodgers prefer that he not take the mound until he can throw without any discomfort, according to manager Don Mattingly.
Who's going to win this dispute? The Dodgers can always make the decision they think is in Kershaw's best interests. But if the pain is manageable—which it apparently wasn't when he was scratched from Sunday's start versus the St. Louis Cardinals—Kershaw will probably be allowed to pitch again.
But when will that be?
The Dodgers need a starting pitcher for Sunday's game at Cincinnati. However, that seems rather soon for Kershaw to return, given that he's currently only throwing on flat ground. Playing catch with Adrian Gonzalez is an entirely different situation from pitching at full intensity off a mound.
However, Kershaw and the Dodgers might have an eye on the team's following game, Sept. 25 against the San Diego Padres. If Kershaw is able to pitch in that game, that would put him on schedule to make one additional start before the end of the regular season.
More importantly, that rotation would have Kershaw ready to pitch on Friday, Oct. 5, the date of the NL's wild-card playoff game.
As of Sept. 20, that gives Kershaw five days to rest his hip and receive whatever treatment is necessary to get him ready to pitch. It will have been 13 days since he last appeared in a game if he returns on Sept. 25. If Kershaw's hip hasn't recovered to the point where he can go, it seems likely that he won't be able to pitch again this season.
Yes, the Dodgers would still have eight games remaining on their regular-season schedule. Depending on where the team is in the wild-card standings, perhaps there would still be an opportunity for Kershaw to pitch. But at this point, I'm guessing that it's all about making sure he would be available for the Wild Card playoff game.
Had Kershaw followed his regular rotation, he wouldn't have been scheduled to pitch on Oct. 5. So maybe the Dodgers don't place as much of a premium on that as I'm presuming.
After all, it could be argued that any game Kershaw pitches in at this point of the season is important, a must-win of sorts. The Dodgers need to win every game they can as they try to catch the Cardinals in the wild-card standings.
Regardless of how Kershaw's hip responds and whether he or the Dodgers decide he can pitch again this season, the team probably needs to protect him in the meantime. At the very least, the Dodgers should keep their prized left-hander in a safe place during a ballgame.
In the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader, Kershaw was hit in the head by a piece of Hanley Ramirez's shattered bat. As Hernandez explained in the L.A. Times, Kershaw was struck on the side of his head while sitting in the dugout.
The Dodgers and Kershaw already have enough to worry about with his injured hip. His health and ability to pitch don't need to be complicated by flying shards of baseball bat. Maybe he needs to wear a helmet while on the bench.
Whether Kershaw should be allowed to pitch again this season is an open question. But nothing else should be left to risk at this point. Too much is at stake.
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