Going into Tuesday, it had been over a month since Clayton Kershaw last threw a pitch on the major league level (down in Australia against the Diamondback’s on March 22nd). However, despite the large gap due to an injury, Kershaw picked up right where he left off, overpowering the Nationals and recording his second win of the 2014 season — the 31st start of his career with zero earned runs on seven or more innings pitched.
Kershaw’s missed month was due to an injury he acquired after plowing through the D-backs lineup in game one of the 2014 Opening Series in Australia (a start that many are now questioning), experiencing a strained left shoulder muscle afterwards, which landed him on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career.
Though many people felt that the Dodgers were too cautious with Kershaw, spreading his rehabilitation out over several weeks, you can understand their concern, having just locked him up on a seven-year, 215 million dollar, record breaking contract back in January.
Making two rehab starts down in the minor leagues before getting the call back up to the majors, Kershaw’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Dodgers, who were merely managing to keep in contention, having gone 17-15 without him. Sitting behind the Rockies and Giants in the National League west, despite pre season predictions from many for them to run away with the division, having Kershaw back immediately makes the Dodgers a stronger overall team.
But the loss of their two-time Cy Young award winner for the first part of the season didn’t just have an impact on the Dodgers as a whole; it may prove to have a big impact on Kershaw himself. Although he moved to 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA on the season, behind an 8-3 win on Tuesday night against the Nat’s, having missed over a month, many pitchers in the National League have been given the opportunity to overtake Kershaw when it comes to the running for some of the games’ highest honors.
None more so than Jose Fernandez.
Fernandez, who finished third in Cy Young voting in 2013 (truly saying something considering the fact that it was his rookie season), currently sits as the front runner to make the start for the National League All-Star team in July, as well as to win the 2014 NL Cy Young award, with his stat line of 4-1 with a 1.74 ERA on the year.
Given, there’s still a ton of the season left where anything can happen, with Kershaw having to play catch up, Fernandez could potentially run away with the voting at season’s end, should he be able to continue his fantastic pitching performances.
Even so, Clayton Kershaw’s return is good for both the Dodgers and baseball, even if it did come a bit later than in year’s past. Every time he takes the mound, people stop and watch to see how Kershaw will perform, as there’s always the chance for something special to happen.
Going down in the record books — at least for now — as the highest annually paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history, Kershaw showed on Tuesday why he’s worth every penny the Dodgers spent, and, inevitably, why he will go down in the record books as one of the best pitchers the game of baseball has ever seen.