SportsPulse’s Trysta Krick catches up with For The Win’s Ted Berg and USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale, who give us their predictions for this year’s baseball playoffs.
LOS ANGELES — You won’t find this in the official injury reports, but Clayton Kershaw will be pitching Friday with a bruised ego.
The Dodgers opted to go with Hyun-jin Ryu over Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner, to start the opening game of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
“I wouldn’t really consider it a gut punch,” said Kershaw during a session with the media before Game 1. “I don’t really think of it like that, I think, if I get to pitch in another playoff series for the sixth year in a row. I’m and looking forward to it.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts noted that if Kershaw is disappointed, he’s hiding it.
“The mood between the two of us is great, hasn’t changed,” he said.
When asked if not getting the start would be incentive for him, Kershaw said: “I don’t really need to prove myself to anybody.’’
Kershaw, whose 2.73 ERA this season is his highest since the 2010 season, most certainly will have something to prove. Something big, even for a future Hall-of-Famer like himself. Something that may determine if the Dodgers can win their first World Series championship since 1988.
He must prove that bruised ego will not undermine him when he takes the mound. And the postseason alone raises concerns about Kershaw, who during his 11-year major league career is 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA in the playoffs compared to 153-69 and a 2.39 ERA during the regular season. And then there were interesting exchanges Thursday during his Q&A session with the media.
One reporter asked Kershaw if he agreed or disagreed with the reason the Dodgers decided to start Ryu. (Roberts stressed it would give Kershaw an extra day of rest. But Ryu entered the game with superior statistics and it was clear the front office likely was involved in the decision, too.)
“Good question,’’ said Kershaw, who then laughed. “It wasn’t really an agree or disagree type thing. I guess they had their reasons, and I accepted them.’’
Another reporter asked Kershaw if he would benefit with the extra rest.
“Um, I don’t know,’’ he said. “I’ll let you know tomorrow. … I think I would have been fine either way.’’
Then a reporter said that on Wednesday Ryu told reporters Kershaw informed Ryu he was going to start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves. Could Kershaw share how that conversation went?
“Sure,’’ Kershaw replied. “Ryu asked me if I was pitching Game 1. I said, ‘No, you are.’ And we walked off.’’
True or not, the Dodgers should have been the ones to inform Ryu that he would start. But make no mistake about it — it was the right decision and it worked in their favor. Ryu retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced, allowing only four base hits, striking out eight and walking none before being lifted after seven innings.
On Friday, Kershaw can prove himself once again.
Follow Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11