Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw out of WBC; Sources cite insurance problem

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw will not pitch for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the Dodgers left-hander told reporters on Friday.

Kershaw is healthy, having reported to camp this week without issues and completing a bullpen session Thursday afternoon. But the three-time Cy Young winner struggled to secure an insurance claim for the event because of his injury history, according to league sources briefed on the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.

“All sides really tried to make it work, and there’s nothing wrong with me,” Kershaw said Friday. “It just didn’t work out. I really wanted to do that, really wanted to be a part of that group. Probably my last chance to do that.”

The World Baseball Classic has remained an unchecked box for Kershaw in an illustrious career. Even up until the final decision, Kershaw had been lobbying to pitch in the event — to the point that the 34-year-old even wanted to bring his own personal politics to the event, the sources said.

“I’m impressed that he was willing to pursue all avenues to try to put the United States over his chest and represent us in the WBC,” said Team USA CEO Mark DeRosa The Athletic. “At the end of the day, it seemed like there were just too many things for him to do.”

Kershaw hinted at the possibility of missing the event on Wednesday, signaling there were “some complications” with the process.

We’re going to continue with (his statement), he’s working through it and we’ll take it day by day, Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said Wednesday, alluding to Kershaw’s comments. But Kershaw’s participation in the event became increasingly unlikely after pitchers and catchers reported to camp this week at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz.

Insurance coverage is required for players to be cleared in the World Baseball Classic; to ensure coverage becomes more difficult with players who have extensive injury histories. Right-hander Sonny Gray was forced to sit out the 2017 World Baseball Classic after he failed to clear.

“There were some factors that made it difficult for me to play,” Kershaw said Friday. “I tried to figure it out on my own, tried to figure it out with MLB, the union. Everybody worked hard to make it work. Just couldn’t.

“(It’s) definitely surprising. I’m 100 percent healthy, so I didn’t think there would be any problems, but things happen. … I am frustrated. They should make it easy for guys who want to play to play.”

The Dodgers re-signed Kershaw to a one-year, $20 million deal this winter after the left-hander was as effective as ever, posting a 2.28 ERA in 22 regular-season starts and earning his first career nod to start the All-Star Game on his home field . He also missed time twice with lingering back problems, a year after his season ended with elbow problems.

Kershaw has spent time on the disabled list for seven straight seasons, mostly due to lingering back discomfort.

“It’s not a perfect science,” Kershaw said Wednesday about managing his back. “I’m just trying to figure out as best I can how to keep it going. Obviously, in the offseason you work on different things, try to keep it as strong as possible, keep it mobile. But it is difficult to do both. I try to have the right balance. I don’t know if I’ve figured it out yet. But I feel good (now).”

When healthy, Kershaw continues to be one of the most effective starters in the sport. His inclusion on a Team USA roster that included Dodgers teammates Will Smith and Mookie Betts (and former teammate Trea Turner) was expected to be a boon to the USA’s odds in the tournament. Kershaw is the most accomplished of a group of pitchers that also includes Cardinals right-handers Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas, the White Sox’s Lance Lynn, the Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly, the Royals’ Brady Singer and the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland.

DeRosa and Wainwright each played a prominent role in recruiting Kershaw to join the competition in the first place, calling throughout the winter and participating in conversations with Kershaw as he completed his return to the Dodgers.

“I’m just disappointed I don’t get to play with him,” Wainwright said. “Every year, everybody who’s ever played with both of us says, ‘Dude, you’d love this guy. You’d want to play with him. He’d be your favorite.’

Yankees All-Star left-hander Nestor Cortes also recently withdrew ahead of the World Baseball Classic with a hamstring injury. Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Giants right-hander Logan Webb were not on the Team USA roster when it was announced this month despite previously committing to participate. Eovaldi also faced insurance concerns, while Webb felt an obligation to remain with the Giants, major-league sources said.

Now Team USA will be without Kershaw, who returns to his usual spot and takes a load for a Dodgers rotation with October aspirations. Despite saying he’s at the stage of his career where his decision to continue playing will be on a year-to-year basis, Kershaw shrugged off talk of retirement after this season.

“Honestly, I’m not coming in with any thoughts about the future,” Kershaw said. “That’s why I like to go every year (to year). You come in and you do everything you can to be good for one year, then re-evaluate when the season is over. Last year I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to to come back and play and wanted to be here.

“I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like in November this season. But everything is ready on the table.”

(Photo of Kershaw: Rick Scuteri/USA Today)

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