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Clayton Kershaw, the golden arm and having to do the smart thing

September 17, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Clayton Kershaw has battled plantar fasciitis and still leads the NL in strikeouts, with 206.
Clayton Kershaw has battled plantar fasciitis and still leads the NL in… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

He’s 24 years old and pure gold. With years of marvelous performances ahead. With as much potential already realized, still so much more awaiting.

You don’t take chances with a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw. They don’t come around too often, left-handers capturing a National League Cy Young award at age 23. You prize them, coddle them, protect them like a cherished firstborn.

Even if his win-loss record (12-9) seems comparatively down from last year (21-5), Kershaw still has enjoyed a terrific season for the Dodgers. He’s battled plantar fasciitis for the last 3½ months and yet leads the NL in strikeouts (206) and is second in earned-run average (2.70).

But now his hip screams out to him, and surgery is a very real possibility. That’s a difficult situation for a team when it’s battling deep into September for a playoff spot and its ace could be sidelined for the rest of the season and into early 2013.

Only the Dodgers have no choice. It’s too painful to pitch with, and there is absolutely no way they could send him back out there with even a remote possibility of him doing more damage to it.

If the second opinion from Dr. Bryan Kelly on Tuesday confirms Kershaw needs hip surgery, then it’s unlikely he will be able to pitch next season until the middle of May. He could miss maybe eight starts before taking the mound in a competitive major league game.

That’s a tough price, but one that would have to be paid. This isn’t a Stephen Strasburg situation, where a player is now healthy, coming back from injury and a team is shutting him down to play it safe.

Kershaw is hurting right now. He’s highly competitive, but intelligent and unusually mature. He has to understand what’s at stake. Has to realize the smart thing here, if surgery is required, is to have it done now, to start the rehab clock, to set things up for his best and longest future.

If surgery is required, not seeing Kershaw on the mound again until after Mother’s Day is a challenging proposition for the Dodgers. But at least they will be completely aware of their situation going into the off-season, can make adjustments, can make their plan now.

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