Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw: 'I Do Feel Bad for Fans' Who Could've Seen Perfect Game

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 15, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 13: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers prepares to pitch against the Minnesota Twins in the sixth inning of the game at Target Field on April 13, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Dodgers 7-0. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

A day after Clayton Kershaw was pulled after seven innings while he had a perfect game going, the star pitcher maintained his original stance—it was the right decision. 

But Kershaw did tell reporters Thursday that he felt bad for the fans who were hoping to witness history.

"If I was a fan, I would want to see somebody finish the game," he said. "From a fan's perspective, I do feel bad for that. I wish I could've done it. But yesterday wasn't the day."

Kershaw wasn't just perfect—he was otherworldly, striking out 13 Minnesota Twins hitters while only needing 80 pitches to get 21 outs. Under normal circumstances, he would have stayed in the game and likely gotten those final six outs, potentially earning his first perfect game in the process. 

But these weren't normal circumstances. The 34-year-old missed the entirety of the Dodgers' postseason last year with an elbow injury. Per ESPN's Alden Gonzalez, Kershaw didn't so much as "pick up a baseball until January" and promptly had a shortened spring training due to the MLB lockout. 

And Wednesday's start was his first of the season. In his previous four starts in the Cactus League, he never threw more than 75 pitches. While Kershaw acknowledged "there's no way of knowing" if staying in the game might have led to injury, he didn't feel it was worth the risk.

"I could've thrown nine innings and been fine for the rest of the season. I could've thrown two innings yesterday and be hurt the next day. Nobody knows," he said. "But in the moment, I felt like that was the right call for my personal health, the best interest of the team and me being ready in October. It all seemed like the right call at the time."

Not everybody agreed, of course. Not by a long shot:

Fergie Jenkins @fergieajenkins

🤷🏾‍♂️Not even if I had a broken arm and had to roll the ball over the plate am I leaving a perfect game in the 7th. <a href="https://t.co/cQYqa4R7aB">https://t.co/cQYqa4R7aB</a>

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

If it's a no-hitter, whatever. Yank him. Clayton Kershaw has thrown one. <br><br>But there have been more than 220,000 games in MLB history. There have been 23 perfect games.<br><br>Everything -- especially a pitch count of 80 -- is lining up to at least let Kershaw try. You cannot pull him.

Jake Arrieta @JArrieta34

You HAVE to let Kershaw roll in the 8th. Doesn’t matter if it’s his 1st or 30th start. Hitter to hitter.. if any man has ever earned the right, it’s him. Roll the damn dice. <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLB</a>

Reggie Jackson @mroctober

Clayton Kershaw Perfect game 80 pitches, take him OUT !!!!! WHAT THE! what’s the game coming to?1 of the era’s best, and you take him out with a perfect game in the 7th, 7-0 Dodgers winning. Take him OUT! THIS IS BASEBALL PLEASE PEOPLE THAT HAVE NEVER PLAYED GET OUT OF ITS WAY

But manager Dave Roberts stood by his decision.

"I'd like to think that we're all fans of baseball," he told reporters. "I know I am. And so fans want to see great moments. I absolutely understand that. Clayton wants to see a great moment for himself, personally. But I can't manage a ballclub and players with my fan cap on."

In the end, Roberts made the decision he felt was right for his player, and Kershaw didn't fight him on it or publicly disagree with it. In the process, the game of baseball was deprived of a potential historic moment. But Kershaw's thinking long-term.

"From a fan's perspective, it's tough to swallow," he said. "Hopefully when we're winning the World Series in October it'll mean something."