Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch against the Astros during… (Harry How / Getty Images )
That was a troubling report about Clayton Kershaw, pretty much lost behind a barrage of news Tuesday –- Elian Herrera’s game-winning hit, Javy Guerra’s knee surgery and Tommy Lasorda’s heart attack.
But word that Kershaw is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his left foot has to be potentially frightening for the Dodgers.
If it’s mild and caught early, hopefully therapy can help alleviate the pain and keep it under control. Trouble is, rest is typically one of the main ways it’s treated. And that’s a tad difficult to do when you’re not yet in the middle of the season.
It did not look particularly mild when Kershaw jumped with pain running to first base Monday, so concern has to be very real. It ended outfielder Scott Podsednik’s season with the Dodgers in 2010. It brought daily tears to the eyes of Angels outfielder Tim Salmon in 1998.
What makes it worse is that Kershaw is a left-hander so he pivots and pushes off his left foot when delivering a pitch. If it were his landing foot, the pain would be felt after the release, but in his case the pain would happen at the beginning of his delivery.
Plantar fasciitis is the painful swelling of the tendon that goes from the heel to the toes and it’s chronic and not fun. Playing with it threatens to tear it more severely, as happened with Salmon, or in a worse-case scenario, rupturing the tendon. In which case, you’re likely looking at a lifetime of pain.
That’s the extreme end of it, but the plantar fasciitis would explain why Kershaw has been really good this season and not you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me incredible.
Most of Kershaw’s numbers to this point are very similar to what he was doing through his first 12 starts last season: 6-3, 2.62 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in 2011; 4-3, 2.55 ERA, 1.01 WHIP in 2012.
Yet he has not been as dominant as last season, and when you’re coming off a Cy Young season, you are always going to be measured against yourself. Last year through 12 starts, he was averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, this year it’s 7.6.
The Dodgers will have to watch their prized pitching possession very carefully. He’s only 24, with plenty of years ahead of him, and hopefully pain-free ones.
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