ARLINGTON, Texas — Clayton Kershaw has been scratched from his Game 2 start in the National League Championship Series because of back spasms, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced Tuesday morning, about six hours before the first pitch.
Tony Gonsolin, a rookie, will start in Kershaw’s place.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said “the likelihood is very good” that Kershaw will pitch at some point in this series, but the team is unsure when that will take place. Kershaw went through his dry work and played catch at Globe Life Field in the early afternoon, a routine he usually goes through the day before his start, but Roberts said Kershaw will not start Game 3. A Game 4 start is seemingly the most likely outcome.
Kershaw initially suffered back spasms while throwing his normal between-starts bullpen session on Saturday. The Dodgers, Roberts said, “tried to kick the can down the road as long as we could and today he just woke up and felt that it wouldn’t be smart.”
“Each day, Clayton got a little bit better,” Roberts added. “Our goal was to have him start tonight, but it just never got to the point where we felt comfortable.”
The Dodgers announced that Julio Urias will start Game 3, a few minutes after Roberts spoke, making Urias unavailable to pitch in relief in Game 2. Roberts also acknowledged that Kershaw’s injury could impact the Dodgers’ decision to use young starter Dustin May as something of a wild card in this series; May faced eight batters in Monday’s Game 1 loss and could provide the equivalent of a starter’s workload in Game 5.
Kershaw, 32, experienced something of a career renaissance this season, displaying a deeper slider and a firmer fastball while posting a 2.16 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and a 7.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 58 1/3 innings. He missed time on the injured list with back-related issues every season from 2016 to 2018 and was scratched from his Opening Day start earlier this season because of another back injury. But Kershaw recovered from that setback in a matter of days; Roberts said the most recent ailment is unrelated.
“Clayton is the greatest competitor I’ve ever been around,” Roberts said. “To give him the opportunity to make the start today was our goal, until we couldn’t.”
Gonsolin, 26, has been among the best rookies in a crowded field for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, posting a 2.31 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and a 6.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46 2/3 innings.
Tuesday’s game, a matchup against another blossoming rookie in Ian Anderson, will mark Gonsolin’s first appearance in 17 days. Gonsolin was going to throw a simulated game on Saturday but backed off and threw a short bullpen session when told of the possibility that Kershaw would not take his turn. The last time Gonsolin got extended work was in a four-inning simulated game about a week ago.
“You don’t know until you know,” Roberts said when asked about the possibility of Gonsolin being rusty in Game 2. “You’re just betting on the person to go out there and execute.”