Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ decision to pull Clayton Kershaw while pitching seven perfect innings against Minnesota drew strong reaction and debate around the majors.
Roberts wasn't second-guessing himself a day later.
“I can't manage a ballclub and players with my fan cap on,” he said Thursday before the team's home opener against Cincinnati. “There's a cost to everything and I wasn't, and Clayton wasn't, willing to take on that cost.”
Roberts said Kershaw “kind of initiated” the move, which came after 80 pitches in a 7-0 victory Wednesday. The three-time Cy Young Award winner struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced.
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There were plenty of reasons for Roberts to take a cautious approach with the longtime staff ace.
Kershaw has been injured in each of the three previous seasons. The 34-year-old left-hander missed over two months last year with inflammation in his forearm and wasn't able to pitch in the postseason. He re-signed with the team for $17 million this year.
He went through an abbreviated spring training because of the lockout and was making his first start of the season Wednesday. The Dodgers are favored to win the World Series and want Kershaw around for the long haul.
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“It felt like that was the right call for my personal health, the best interests of the team, and me being ready in October,” Kershaw said Thursday. “It all seemed like the right call at the time.”
Roberts has been criticized in the past for his pitching decisions, including three times pulling starters with no-hitters in progress.
Walker Buehler came out after six innings in May 2018, Rich Hill left with a blister after seven perfect innings in September 2016, and Ross Stripling was removed after 7 1/3 innings in April 2016.
According to ESPN research, Kershaw and Hill are the only pitchers in major league history to be pulled after seven-plus innings with a perfect game still intact.
“I don't do social media, so I can only imagine what was out there,” Roberts said. “When you do my job, you have to answer to consequences.”
Kershaw understood why Dodgers fans would be upset at missing a potential perfect game. The only one in franchise history was by Sandy Koufax against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 9, 1965.
“The only thing I feel bad for is, if I was a fan, I would want to see somebody finish the game,” Kershaw said. “So, from a fan’s perspective, I do feel bad for that. I wish I could have done it. But yesterday wasn’t the day.”