Give it a rest: If Kershaw’s return ‘wreaks of panic,’ the media finally comes around

ORIGINAL POST: MONDAY, 3:30 p.m.
UPDATED POST: MONDAY, 11:30 p.m.
CORRECTIONS MADE: WEDNESDAY, noon

Clayton Kershaw, left, is embraced by Sandy Koufax after Monday's Game 4 victory (from @dodgers)

Clayton Kershaw, left, is embraced by Sandy Koufax after Monday’s Game 4 victory (from @dodgers)

The Don Mattingly media inquisition erupted almost immediately.

Once it became public that the Dodgers manager decided to swap out Ricky Nolasco for Clayton Kershaw about eight hours before Monday night’s Game 4 of the NL Divisional Series against Atlanta, it became open season to opine.

Even by those who had already started questioning Mattingly on Sunday afternoon for sticking by an announced decision to start Nolasco and not Kershaw while the series was still tied 1-1, a while before the Dodgers’ Game 3 victory.

alg-pedro-martinez-punta-cana-jpgFormer Dodgers pitcher Pedro Martinez said prior to the TBS coverage of the Boston-Tampa Bay coverage at 3 p.m.: “In order for Kershaw to be OK you have to know previously what was going on. I expect Kershaw to be on his game if he did what he had to do (between starts).  If it was short notice, this could come back and backfire on Mattingly.”

Consider Kershaw has only once pitched on three-days rest in his young career and that was in relief as a rookie in 2008.

dirk-hayhurst_9Dirk Hayhurst, the former fringe major league pitcher-turned-best-selling author with his hit memoir “The Bullpen Gospels,” was a hand-picked choice to join the set by new anchor Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann reported that Kershaw has been “barking” about wanting to pitch Game 4 ever since he won Game 1.

Replied Hayhurst: “When I hear ‘barking’ it sounds like bravado, which you want from your ace, the guy who pitches in the big game. The problem is he threw 124 pitches in his last outing, the most he’s ever thrown. Two-hundred forty-two innings total this year, that’s a large body of work. I’m not sure if this the right thing . . .

“It wreaks of panic, that’s what I’m trying to say. This is going to be dangerous for this guy to potentially injury himself. You don’t need to do it. You’re ahead in the series.”

0417verducciSaid Sports Illustrated writer and part-time Fox game analyst Tom Verducci: “I’m not sure if it’s panic but it sure smells like it. He obviously wants to close this series as quickly as possible. Going to your guy on short rest in a game that is not elimination for your team, that is a very unusual move. Maybe you do that in a World Series. I don’t know about first round of the playoffs.”

Added Martinez: “I don’t think this is about Nolaso, it’s about momentum and being in L.A. with a chance to clinch. It’s Mattingly rushing his team into a win. With all due respect to him, I think he should take it easy.”

Easy for them to say. But there was no time to rest between shows. Or wait for more information to become available. You go with what you know, or don’t know, and form opinions.

ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption” often has completed taping the day’s show, but when it aired at 2:30 p.m., Kershaw was the No. 1 topic.

Tony Kornheiser: “I can defend this intellectually, and I understand going for the throat, and Nolasco’s last three starts are 12 innings and 17 earned runs, but I think it’s nuts.”

Mike Wilbon: “I’m not risking the franchise pitcher, and for my money the best pitcher in all of baseball . . . this isn’t the 1950s or ‘60s when guys routinely threw 180 pitches. You don’t do this anymore.”

Kornheriser: “You know the owner (Magic Johnson). Call him right now.”

The TBS telecast began with Kershaw as the storyline on the front, back and side burners. But eventually, Mattingly pre-game interview session with the rest of the media Monday afternoon became circulated as to the thinking behind the decision.

Funny how new information can change things.

Analyst Cal Ripken said that if the Dodgers lost Game 3 to go down 2-1 he would have endorsed Kershaw coming back, “but the more I think about (this situation), I really like it, aligning your two best pitchers to work the next two games. You can’t take anything for granted in the playoffs.”

Analyst Ron Darling explained that the Dodgers weeks ago had considered this strategy but it took time for the staff and front office to broach Kershaw about the idea, afraid it might throw him off his routine.

“You always need a committee to make a decision for a king,” said Darling.

“But it is a big decision,” added Ripken.

la_cy_young_03On the KLAC-AM (570) radio call, Vin Scully took the opp-
ortunity to begin  com-
paring Ker-
shaw’s feats to those
short-
rested
accomp-
plish-
ments of Sandy Koufax during the post seasons of 1963 and ’65 – leaving out, of course, that arm trouble eventually ended Koufax’s career after the 1966 World Series.

At one point, in fact, Scully meant to say “Kershaw” and instead said “Koufax” but caught himself in time to finish the sentence “memory is lingering here in the ballpark.”

Scully also had the line about Kershaw: “He wanted the start, he asked for the start, and now he’s got it.”

Scully was most aware of all the broadcasters of Kershaw’s pitch count, knowing that could come into play on how far the left-hander lasted in the game. Scully also noted that the third and fourth inning were the trouble spots for Kershaw in Game 1, when he had 26 pitches in each of those innings.

After Kershaw finished four innings, however, neither the TV nor radio broadcasters (now Charley Steiner and Rick Monday) gave out his pitch total (it was 59) even though they continued to note that the Dodgers’ defense probably forced Kershaw to make a few extra pitches each inning.

By the time the fifth inning came around, a new tone set in. Kershaw’s arm hadn’t fallen off. In fact, he looked pretty good.

screen568x568He made 79 pitches after five  innings. He made 91 through six. And only gave up three hits?

How long can he last? No more. That was that.

“To tell you the truth, I think he’s been sharper (tonight) than he was in his first start,” said Darling. “And that’s on three day’s rest.”

Yes, at this point, with a 2-2 tie enveloped into a real pitcher’s duel, rest assured we all know how many days it’s been. Maybe we can give it a rest now?

Photo by Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2013

Photo by Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2013

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