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Will Clayton Kershaw be ready for a ninth Dodgers season opener?

Jorge Castillo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts unceremoniously named his opening day starter this week. It will be Clayton Kershaw. The revelation didn't shock a soul.

Kershaw was named the starter in March for the team's original opening day before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. He has started on opening day for the Dodgers eight times. The ninth, scheduled for July 23 against the San Francisco Giants, will extend his franchise record.

The intrigue lies in Kershaw's readiness for the outing.

Spring training in normal times is about six weeks long because of starting pitchers, who depend on the monotonous days to carefully build their arm strength with coaches overseeing their every move.

That isn't an option for this deformed 2020 season. Clubs have three weeks of training camp to prepare for the 60-game campaign. In the end, starting pitchers who stuck to a strict regimen on their own during the league's shutdown might emerge a step ahead of others. Kershaw is one of those.

Kershaw had the resources to maintain a workout routine at his home gym. He said he pitched a three-inning simulated game in Texas before training camp. His first day at Dodger Stadium he logged four innings. On Monday, he threw four innings in an intrasquad game and tossed a simulated fifth inning in the bullpen.

 

"I basically have three starts to get ready for the season and I'll be built up probably to 100 pitches by then," Kershaw said July 3, the first day of official workouts. "To put it in perspective, I'm probably like towards the middle of March as far as where I should be. And I feel good with it, honestly. I do."

Roberts said he also expects Alex Wood and Ross Stripling -- David Price's likely replacement in the starting rotation -- to have the stamina to throw 100 pitches in their first starts of the season. Wood gave up two runs -- on a two-run home run by Joc Pederson -- in 5 2/3 innings during Friday's scrimmage.

Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, however, likely will be behind. Urias made his first appearance in an intrasquad game Friday, throwing three scoreless innings. Urias insisted on Thursday he is healthy. With less than two weeks until the regular season, his first start could be abbreviated.

Buehler appears to be further behind. The budding ace hasn't appeared in an intrasquad game. It's not new territory for Buehler; his build-up was also delayed last season.

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