NL Notes: Kershaw, Candelario, Slater, Alvarez

The Dodgers have decided to push the next start of veteran ace Clayton Kershaw to Friday, as noted by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Kershaw was originally slated to start tomorrow’s game against the Padres. Manager Dave Roberts told reporters that the decision to move Kershaw’s start wasn’t prompted by a physical issue, saying that the main goal in pushing his start back is lining up the rotation for the postseason.

As Plunkett notes, however, Kershaw’s workload has been carefully monitored by the Dodgers ever since he returned from a six-week sojourn on the injured list due to shoulder issues. Kershaw has not pitched beyond the fifth inning since returning and has eclipsed 80 pitches in a start just once. Plunkett also spoke with pitching coach Mark Prior regarding Kershaw’s dip in velocity since returning, with Prior calling the drop below 90 mph on Kershaw’s fastball “surprising,” though he added that Kershaw maintains that his shoulder feels fine.

If there’s any concerns regarding Kershaw’s ability to start playoff games deep into the postseason, it certainly makes sense for the Dodgers to manage his workload carefully down the stretch. The club has a massive 13 game lead in the NL West, essentially guaranteeing them a division title, while the Playoff Odds at Fangraphs give LA a whopping 99.8% chance to clinch a bye in the Wild Card round, allowing them to move directly into the NLDS. With regular season games rapidly waning in importance for the Dodgers and a rotation featuring Kershaw, Lance Lynn (6.09 ERA in 28 starts) and a trio of rookies led by Bobby Miller (3.98 ERA in 18 starts), it’s a no-brainer for the Dodgers to take as few risks with their 35-year-old ace’s arm as possible.

More from the National League…

  • Cubs infielder Jeimer Candelario exited today’s game against the Diamondbacks due to back tightness, as manager David Ross told reporters (including Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune) this evening, and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Candelario has had a big rebound season since being non-tendered by the Tigers last winter, as the switch-hitter has slashed .254/.339/.475 in 553 trips to the plate split between the Nationals and Cubs this season. He’s cooled off a bit recently, slashing just .161/.257/.356 in his last 101 trips to the plate, but that month long cold stretch doesn’t change the fact that Candelario is a key piece of Chicago’s lineup alongside the likes of Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki as they look to return to the playoffs in a full season for the first time since 2018. Should Candelario miss time with the injury, the club figures to rely on Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom at third base.
  • Giants outfielder Austin Slater has been out of the lineup in recent days due to illness, with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle noting that the 30 year old visited a specialist recently and received vertigo medicine, which has helped to alleviate the dizziness and balance issues he had been struggling with. It’s been a bit of a down year for Slater, as he’s hit just .248/.328/.379 as he’s shifted to more of a part time role with San Francisco. Luis Matos has acted as the club’s primary center fielder in Slater’s absence.
  • Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez left today’s game against the Twins in the seventh inning after being struck in the hand by a pitch during the fifth inning. Fortuantely, Mike Puma of the New York Post noted that Alvarez underwent x-rays on his hand that came back negative, indicating the 21-year-old rookie avoided a serious injury. Alvarez took over as the club’s primary catcher following an early-season injury to veteran backstop Omar Narvaez and has performed solidly in the role, hitting .212/.288/.434 in 107 games. That stat line is good for a wRC+ of 98, ahead of quality regulars behind the plate like Alejandro Kirk, Yan Gomes, and Tyler Stephenson.

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