Clayton Kershaw a Major Question, Carl Crawford to Stay Home

I’ve recently written two posts about Dodgers’ starting pitching problems heading into the start of the 2014 season, in Australia, more than a week ahead of the rest of baseball. On March 4 I wrote about how the empty uniform non-manager Don Mattingly may have caused ace Clayton Kershaw to suffer serious harm due to the way he was used in last year’s playoffs, and on March 14, I wrote about ongoing injury problems to other Dodgers’ starters. Well, after his final spring training outing, the Kershaw situation continues to be extremely worrisome, now overshadowing other pitching issues.

After his championship series meltdown after being used on short rest for the first time in his career, Kershaw has now completed his spring work and the results are scary, even for an established star who has nothing to prove in the spring. His number are a 0-3 record, a

Clayton Kershaw 2013 National League Cy Young Award Limited Edition Framed Collage with Game-Used Baseball

9.20 ERA, and 20 hits and only 10 strikeouts in 14-2/3 innings pitched.

It won’t help that Kershaw’s next game, one that counts in the standings despite its far-off location, will begin at 1:00 a.m. Los Angeles time (7:00 p.m. down under on March 22). Kershaw and the team will have a couple of days to recover before that first game, but the fact remains that it is a long, grueling, 15 hour flight TO Australia, not to mention a 15 hour flight BACK before the team will have to begin facing real major league competition.

It has now also been announced that Carl Crawford will not travel to Australia due to the impending birth

of his third child. This makes Scott Van Slyke the starter in left field for the Australian games, and leaves the team with the likes of Mike Baxter and/or Nick Buss and/or Joc Pederson as the only backups in the outfield, with Matt Kemp already out for the beginning of the season. If Chone Figgins should make the team, then the veteran infielder who also is (or, rather, was, a couple of years ago) an excellent defensive outfielder, could move up ahead of the others as the number one sub for those first two games. Figgins will

make the trip to Australia, but it is yet to be decided whether or not he will make the active roster for those games, or thereafter. 21-year-old phenom Pederson has had a totally unremarkable spring and will more than likely start the year in the minors, leaving the second back-up outfield spot between former Met Mike Baxter, and Nick Buss, who has put up excellent numbers in the minors but who has only 19 major league at bats to his name and who has gone hitless this spring. Pederson, Baxter, and Buss are all left-handed hitters, which is always an absolute necessity for late-inning pinch hitting.

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Playing their last tune-up today, the Dodgers have compiled a 6-10 Cactus League record. They should be fine-tuning and making informed roster decisions over the next ten days, not spending 30 hours on an airplane, wasting several more valuable days of spring work, and beginning the for-real season exhausted and unprepared. Like Zack Greinke said, Australia would be a nice place for a vacation, but not as a regular season road trip.

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