Dodgers begin spring training as Clayton Kershaw plans to return

AP photo by Jeff Chiu / Clayton Kershaw pitches for the Los Angeles Dodgers during a game against the host San Francisco Giants last Sept. 30.
AP photo by Jeff Chiu / Clayton Kershaw pitches for the Los Angeles Dodgers during a game against the host San Francisco Giants last Sept. 30.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw is returning for his 17th season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The left-handed pitcher said Thursday he will be back with the team as part of an agreement that includes a player option for 2025. The three-time Cy Young Award winner spoke as the big-spending Dodgers became the first of Major League Baseball's 30 teams to start spring training this year, opening on a dreary, wet and chilly Thursday morning at Camelback Ranch ahead of their opener against the San Diego Padres on March 20 in Seoul, South Korea.

Kershaw, who has 210 wins in his MLB career and turns 36 on March 19, had a nameplate and a locker in the clubhouse even though his contract had not been announced by the the team.

"I'm on a good path right now," Kershaw said. "I'm excited about getting ready to pitch again at Dodger Stadium. That sounds fun."

The Dodgers did announce one deal Thursday, finalizing a $9 million, two-year contract to retain right-handed pitcher Ryan Brasier. To make room on the roster for Brasier — who is expected to work out of the bullpen — the Dodgers placed right-hander Dustin May on the 60-day injured list.

May is recovering from elbow surgery that took place on July 18. The 36-year-old Brasier was released by the Boston Red Sox midway through last season, signed with the Dodgers, and posted a 0.70 ERA over 38 2/3 innings and 39 appearances.

Kershaw had surgery on Nov. 3 to repair his left shoulder capsule and glenohumeral ligaments, which reinforce the joint capsule. He expects to be available to pitch this summer.

Kershaw said he didn't throw a baseball for three months after surgery but is now in the second week of a throwing program. He said he'll split time between his home in Texas and the Dodgers' spring training facility in preparation for the start of the season.

"Summer is about as good as I can do," Kershaw said of his return. "It's probably not early summer ... I would say July-ish, August-ish, somewhere in there."

Kershaw has navigated several health problems over the past few seasons but continues to be productive when he's on the mound. He went 13-5 with 2.46 ERA in 131 2/3 innings over 24 regular-season starts last year.

In his final outing, he gave up six runs and got one out in the National League Division Series opener, the start of the Arizona Diamondbacks' three-game sweep of the Dodgers.

"Didn't want to go out that way," Kershaw said.

Dodgers pitchers and catchers and players coming off injuries reported on a day with steady rain and temperatures in the 50s. Shortstop Gavin Lux, who hopes to return from a torn right ACL sustained last Feb. 27, was among many in a rain-speckled shirt after a hitting session.

Kershaw's return adds to a busy and expensive offseason for the Dodgers, who have allocated more than $1 billion to free agents. Los Angeles made its biggest move by signing two-way star Shohei Ohtani to a $700 million, 10-year contract in December. Days later, they landed right-handed pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto with a $325 million, 12-year deal.

Kershaw said Ohtani's international stardom should make life easier on his teammates.

"He seems like he's got a great head on his shoulders and he can handle it," Kershaw said. "Honestly, it should be good for our other guys. Mookie (Betts), Freddie (Freeman) are superstars in their own right, but the attention is going to be on Shohei 24/7."

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