GLENDALE, Ariz. — Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the most decorated pitcher scheduled to pitch in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, was forced to bow out of the international tournament Friday simply because an insurance policy failed to clear him.
“It was super disappointing …’’ said Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer. “I’m frustrated. I really wanted to do it.
“We tried a lot of different things. I tried to work it out on my own. Tried to work it out with MLB, the union, the team, everybody. Everybody worked hard to try and make it work.
“Just wasn’t able to.”
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Kershaw, on a one-year, $20 million contract, has had previous back problems that gave pause to the insurance company, which informed him and the Dodgers that they would not pay his contract if he were injured in the WBC.
“It’s definitely surprising,’’ Kershaw said Friday. “I’m 100% healthy. Nothing is wrong with me. I didn’t think there would be issues. …They should make it easy for guys who want to play, play.
“Obviously, if a [MLB] team that doesn’t want you to play is one thing, but if you have the team’s blessing like I did, they should probably look into that.’’
‘A process everyone has to follow’
Every player must receive medical insurance to participate in the tournament, MLB officials said, and Kershaw is just one of several players who have been unable to clear the insurance company’s hurdles. They have yet to determine who will replace Kershaw on the U.S. roster.
Kershaw missed two months last season with back problems and most of the second half in 2021 with elbow woes. He has been limited to 22 starts each of the past two seasons, pitching fewer than 126 innings each year.
“This is a process everyone has to follow,’’ said Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer and GM of Team USA. “We were just unable to secure insurance in this case.’’
And, yes, as much as Kershaw was disappointed and frustrated, MLB and WBC officials shared his sentiments.
“We were all looking forward to having him,’’ Reagins told USA TODAY Sports. “He’s obviously a future Hall of Famer and one of the best left-handers to ever do it. It’s not so much frustrating, but disappointing. We wanted Clayton to be part of this. We knew what he was bringing to the table. He wanted to wear USA across his chest.’’
Kershaw ‘was really looking forward to’ WBC
Kershaw, 34, now will be relegated to cheering from afar, knowing that he likely now will never be able to experience the WBC.
“In the past, it just wasn’t a thought like I’ve got to get ready for the season,’’ Kershaw said. “It wasn’t really a focus of mine… It’s something that always looked fun to do, but not something I thought would be an option until this year.’’
“I was really looking forward to it, I was getting excited as it was getting closer. Great group of guys. Just such a great group, it would have been a lot of fun to be a part of.
“It’s almost like an All-Star game with meaning.’’
Kershaw declined to say when he was informed that the insurance policy would become an issue, but reiterated that he feels perfectly healthy, and believed he would have no problem getting ready for the WBC that begins March 11.
“This year, coming into it, I was feeling healthy,’’ Kershaw said. “The way they structured it, it was only going to be one or two starts. I felt really good from a health perspective.
“Obviously, it’s not the most important thing when you’re with the Dodgers, but we’ll be ready for the season.’’
Story Credit: usatoday.com