Team USA’s Dodgers presence at March’s World Baseball Classic got a little heavier on Monday.
After gaining commitments from Will Smith and Mookie Betts earlier this year, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was announced as a member of the team, finalizing a decision the former MVP and three-time Cy Young Award winner had hinted at earlier this month.
During a video call with reporters following his re-signing with the Dodgers at baseball’s winter meetings, Kershaw said pitching for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic would be a “huge honor” but that he had to cement some logistics first.
At that point, Kershaw had only just begun his offseason throwing program. And while he has hopeful of taking part in the event for the first time in his career, he said he needed to work out the details with pitching coach Mark Prior and the rest of the Dodgers coaching staff and front office first.
“We’re still working through some things there,” Kershaw said, before adding: “We know how special it is to wear the jersey and how many people can get behind that.”
Monday’s announcement made that a reality, paving the way for Kershaw to join a Team USA pitching staff that has also gotten commitments from Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Nestor Cortes of the New York Yankees, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals and Logan Webb of the San Francisco Giants, among others.
Because the WBC is played during spring training, participating in the event can be more complicated for starting pitchers.
At that point on the calendar, they are usually still in the build-up phase of their preparation for the season, making full-length starts in the WBC a rare occurrence for MLB pitchers.
Kershaw and the Dodgers also had to factor in his recent history of injuries — Kershaw missed the 2021 postseason with an elbow problem, then spent two stints on the IL last year because of back ailments — and weigh the potential cost of increasing the pitcher’s workload ahead of the 2023 season.
“I think it’s an incredible event and I think a lot of guys are extremely motivated to play for their country, which I totally understand,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said during the winter meetings. “There are guys that you know, dialing it up that early is a little bit concerning. But someone like Kersh and others that are going to do it, just knowing it’s far enough in advance and preparing and planning for it, I think is really important.”
Indeed, in the end, the potential obstacles weren’t big enough to prevent the left-hander from representing his country, and becoming the latest Dodgers star to join Team USA.