Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw is targeting a post-All-Star-break return from shoulder surgery as he embarks on the 17th season with the only organization he has known.
After contemplating retirement, Kershaw instead agreed to a reported one-year deal with the Dodgers earlier this week and is at the team’s spring training complex at Glendale, Ariz.
“Honestly I think summer is about as good as I can do,” Kershaw said Thursday of his return to game action. “It’s probably not early summer. … I hate saying a timetable because if I go below it or beyond it, it’s not good. But I would say July-ish, August-ish. Somewhere in there. I don’t know.”
Kershaw, who turns 36 next month, underwent surgery Nov. 3 on his throwing shoulder. Upon his return to the mound, he will be part of a drastically different pitching staff.
Los Angeles signed right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a star in Japan, to a 12-year contract; traded for Tampa Bay Rays ace Tyler Glasnow; and signed veteran left-hander James Paxton to a one-year deal.
Prized two-way signee Shohei Ohtani will not pitch in 2024 following elbow surgery but will contribute on offense.
“This offseason has been pretty amazing to watch, honestly,” Kershaw said. “There’s definitely a part of me that wanted to be a part of that, part of this team.
“Winning an offseason doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a pretty good clubhouse of guys. The talent is probably the best I’ve ever been a part of. I’m hopeful that I can be a part of it, too.”
Youngsters Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan are expected to start the season in the rotation. Walker Buehler, who underwent a second Tommy John surgery in August 2022 and missed all of 2023, will not be ready to start the season with the team but is not expected to be out long. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are also recovering from elbow procedures.
Kershaw posted a 13-5 record with a 2.46 ERA in 24 starts in 2023, but he dealt with diminished velocity after returning from midseason shoulder discomfort.
He started in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks but gave up six runs while recording one out. The Dodgers were swept in the series.
“I’ve said it before, I don’t want to be average,” Kershaw said about his expectations for 2024. “I don’t want to just pitch to pitch. I want to be good. I want to contribute and be part of this. So yeah, my expectations are no concessions. Just be good.”
Kershaw owns a 210-92 record with a 2.48 ERA in 425 career appearances (422 starts) with the Dodgers. He is a 10-time All-Star and a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, including in 2014, when he was named the league’s MVP.