Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw found the question amusing.
Who is your NBA player?
“We talk a lot about it,” Kershaw said after a laugh. “I think Sam Perkins.”
Sam Perkins is 62 years old. He played his last NBA game in 2001. They obviously talk about it a lot.
Kershaw explained his rationale: Perkins was a three-point shooter who shot without jumping. In this way, his game mirrors Perkins’ game. However, Perkins was never an NBA All-Star. Kershaw is a National League All-Star this season for the tenth time of his Hall of Fame career. The achievement has not escaped him.
It would have made sense for Kershaw not to be here this week. He’s on the injured list so pitching in Tuesday’s game is out of the question. He is 35 years old and has four small children. He was there and did that.
Using the hiatus to return to Dallas, take a short vacation, or just stay in Los Angeles for a few days with family would be all other major league players would have done. Mike Trout, for example, was chosen as a starter but was unable to make the trip after breaking his wrist last week.
But Kershaw isn’t just another major league player, and the All-Star Game isn’t just an exhibition for him. He really enjoys the event with his children. A year after the game started in Los Angeles on Monday, he was at T-Mobile Park answering all sorts of questions.
“I think it’s just fun to play,” Kershaw said of the All-Star Game. “You don’t play many games where wins and losses don’t matter. Being able to just go out there in the first half and show everyone how good they are at the game is great for baseball and I think the boys are enjoying it. Sometimes you don’t have the pressure. You can do some fun things like talk during the game or do other things you might not have been able to do otherwise. I think that’s a cool part of it.”
This is the second time Kershaw has been on the injured list after making the All-Star team. It happened in 2016 when the game was played in San Diego. He was also in this game. He returned to the mound in September and finished the season with a 1.69 ERA in 21 starts.
Seven years later, while not as dominant, Kershaw is still one of the elite pitchers in the majors. His ERA of 2.55 leads the NL. His 1.05 WHIP ties with Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen in first place, which is expected to start Tuesday. Kershaw is one of seven pitchers in the majors with ten wins.
He defies expectations and doesn’t take it for granted.
Kershaw appreciates the beer gesture
Kershaw’s injury opened the door for Pittsburgh Pirates closer David Bednar to be named to the All-Star team last week.
The Pirates happened to be in Los Angeles and ran into the Dodgers, so Bednar, a Pittsburgh native, sent a few cans of IC Light, a Pittsburgh-brewed beer, as a gift with a note calling Kershaw “Mr. Kershaw.”
Bednar later heard from Pirates pitcher and former Dodger Rich Hill that Kershaw appreciated the gesture.
“He laughed about it and thought it was pretty cool,” Bednar said.
What did Kershaw think of the beer?
“He says, ‘You know, it’s like a Coors Light or Bud Light, a light beer.’ To me it’s more than that. It’s a black and gold tin. Are you kidding me? It is the best.”
Craig Kimbrel is recovering
This time last year, Craig Kimbrel was going through one of the worst periods of his career. He owned a 4.50 ERA with the Dodgers, who took him on at the end of spring practice at the conclusion of games. He was better in the second half, but the Dodgers chose not to include him in their postseason roster. It was the low point.
Kimbrel, 35, left free agency and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. On Saturday, he was named to the NL All-Star Team as an injured substitute. It is the ninth time that he has received this award. The ninth time means a little more than the first eight after last season’s difficulties.
“I would say so, yes,” Kimbrel said. “I would say from where I was sitting towards the end of last year to the beginning of this year and getting going in May and June so I can sit here and talk to you [is special].”
Kimbrel was not on track to join the team early in the season when he had an 8.52 ERA in 14 appearances. Since then he has had three runs with 40 strikeouts and five walks in 25 appearances. Along the way, he became the eighth pitcher to make 400 saves.
What is the difference?
“Not sending people to the base and not getting me into trouble,” Kimbrel said. “I think I sort of went with the guys early in the year and pitched in situations where I put the guys in the scoring position and had less than two outs. This year I’ve put myself in more comfortable situations and better counts. I was able to attack more instead of playing on the other side. It’s much easier to get 0-2 than 2-0.”
Josiah Gray: Dodgers trade ‘stung’
It’s been almost two years since the Dodgers traded Josiah Gray to the Washington Nationals in a package for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Gray, then a top pitching youngster, envisioned a long career in Los Angeles. Instead, the right-hander became the cornerstone of a massive rebuild in Washington.
Now an All-Star, Gray was selected as the Nationals’ sole representative after recording a 3.41 ERA in 18 starts.
“The initial reaction definitely hurt a little,” Gray said. “I envisioned being with the Dodgers for a while and being in that rotation and just learning from those guys. The business part is of course a part that you have to manage and deal with.”
The Nationals are bottom, but the future looks bright with young talent in both the majors and the farm system following distress sales over the past two summers. Whether this potential translates into success will depend in part on Gray’s continued development.
“I feel like I have a great opportunity there in DC and it was all about just growing with this organization and being the next wave of people,” Gray said. “It definitely hurt at first, but I’m grateful for his new chance to just grow.”
Times contributor Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.