Clayton Kershaw, already on the disabled list for a herniated disc, suffered a setback in his recovery this past Saturday. The three-time Cy Young winner experienced discomfort after pitching in a simulated game. His return date remains uncertain.
You don’t have to have a back problem to know this is bad news for the Dodgers. Really bad news.
“I never had a back injury,” former World Series champion and MLB All-Star Rob Dibble said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Mine was all in the shoulder area and I ruptured my shoulder a couple of times and that was it for me. But for people with back injuries, I’ve heard there’s nothing you can do when you’re in that type of pain.”
Kershaw, who has not pitched since June 26, received an epidural injection in late-June.
“Usually you give somebody an epidural when they’re pregnant,” Dibble said. “So to give somebody an epidural (because) he’s in so much pain that he can’t bear to even pitch, obviously for baseball players, that’s very rare. So to me, it scares me because the Dodgers aren’t winning without Clayton Kershaw. He’s one of the best guys in the Major Leagues. If you can add a second or third starter, they’ve got a decent bullpen and they should have plenty of offense for $300 million. Without Clayton Kershaw, they aren’t going anywhere.”
The Dodgers (53-42) are atop the NL Wild Card but trail the Giants (57-37) by 4.5 games in the NL West. Kershaw had been dominant this season, going 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA, a 0.73 WHIP and 16:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Dibble, 52, called Kershaw “the Sandy Koufax of this generation.”
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Kershaw could be out for quite some time.
Sticking in the NL, Jose Fernandez this week became the fastest pitcher to 500 strikeouts. He needed more starts (65) than Doc Gooden (61) and Yu Darvish (62) to reach the milestone but accomplished the feat in fewer innings and against fewer batters.
“Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard, if you watch them, they get ahead of the batter,” Dibble said. “They throw strike 1, strike 2, they work the count and then all of a sudden you can throw it 59 feet and get guys out.”
Dibble, however, did say that Syndergaard needs to throw more pitches that don’t require max effort. If every pitch is 98 miles per hour, you’re going to wear out – and fast.
“When you’re looking at some of these better young pitchers, they’ve already learned if you add and subtract, you stay in games longer,” Dibble said. “The more economical you are, the better you are. Greg Maddux, one of the greatest of all time. Average pitches per nine-inning starts: 77. I watch a Major League game now, guys are at 77 pitches in the third inning. So if you get to 10 or 12 pitches per inning in junior high or high school or college, you’re so far ahead of the game. The less effort you use in the first three or four innings, the more you have left in the tank in the sixth and seventh. So it’s not just quantity; it’s the quality of these pitches. Jose Fernandez, after the Tommy John, what happened is you refine your mechanics, you start to add and subtract better, you understand you don’t have to throw maximum effort every time. You’re going to save yourself for 15 years in the big leagues.”
That’s the exact message Dibble tries to teach kids at his youth camps in Connecticut: Develop your arm slowly, let your body recover, don’t over-do it.
“I’m doing camps to try to teach young kids you got to play three sports,” Dibble said. “You’ve got to recover. Let your body, your arm, recover. A lot of kids, even 8-year-olds, are asking me, ‘Hey, can you teach me a curveball?’ I’m like, ‘I won’t even teach a curveball until a kid is 15.’ For me, we got to have these kids (recover). Even the major leaguers, you’re rushing Syndergaard, deGrom, Steven Matz has struggled – because they’re rushing these guys to the major leagues at 21, 22. They used to build a base in the minor leagues of 400, 450 innings. Now they throw 100 innings in the minor leagues. They do all their base work at the major league level.”