Hernández: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw deserves the All-Star start

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Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Padres at Dodger Stadium
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw pitched seven scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

There was no mention of the month Clayton Kershaw spent on the injured list or how he hasn’t pitched a sufficient number of innings to qualify to be on the earned-run average leaderboard.

In the view of Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, this was a no-brainer: Kershaw should pitch in the All-Star Game.

“I don’t think there’s anybody more deserving to pitch an All-Star Game in Dodger Stadium,” Barnes said.

Baseball can make it happen. Baseball should make it happen.

In fact, National League manager Brian Snitker should take it a step further and designate Kershaw the starter.

Baseball has a chance to manufacture a moment in what is generally an unscripted theater, and what better moment can there be than the 34-year-old Kershaw making his first All-Star start at home in what could be the final season of his Hall of Fame career?

Granted, there are pitchers with better numbers. Kershaw’s rotation mate Tony Gonsolin is 10-0 and leads the majors with a 1.54 ERA. Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins has a 1.95 ERA while shouldering an old-school workload, with 115 2/3 innings, or 33 2/3 more than Gonsolin.

But if Adam Wainwright could throw Derek Jeter a down-the-middle fastball to double in Jeter’s final All-Star Game and if Alex Rodriguez could exchange his position at shortstop with Cal Ripken in Ripken’s midsummer farewell, Snitker can select Kershaw as his starter later this month.

The All-Star Game is an exhibition.

There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing of sentimentality over performance for something like this, as Kershaw is familiar. His best opportunity to start an All-Star Game was in 2013, when Bruce Bochy picked Matt Harvey of the New York Mets to start at Citi Field.

Major League Baseball could use the buzz. Outside of the fact the game is in Los Angeles for the first time in 42 years, there is no there there about this All-Star Game, like how, say, Shohei Ohtani was the center of attention of last year’s.

Manager Dave Roberts mentioned how Kershaw wouldn’t want a charity invitation, but Kershaw’s performance is taking care of that, with the 34-year-old left-hander lowering his ERA to 2.57 by pitching seven scoreless innings in an eventual 4-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

Remove his six-run disaster in his previous start at offensive paradise Coors Field and his ERA would be 1.73.

“I would love to be honored, to be able to play,” Kershaw said.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on against the Colorado Rockies.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on against the Colorado Rockies during the second inning on June 28 in Denver. (Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

Predictably, whatever potential resistance there was to the idea of Kershaw pitching in the All-Star Game came from Kershaw himself. “It’s at Dodger Stadium, I’ve been here a long time, I get all that,” Kershaw said, “but I don’t want to take anybody’s spot that’s more deserving than me … especially if that guy’s on my team.”

Gonsolin is a lock. Julio Urías should be too. Tyler Anderson could work his way into serious consideration with a couple more strong starts before the All-Star break.

This is where MLB has to exercise common sense. Some of the All-Star pitchers and reserves are chosen by the players, with the others picked by the commissioner’s office. Surely Rob Manfred can find a way to place Kershaw on the NL roster without punishing Gonsolin or Urías.

The game is in Los Angeles, after all.

This city has watched Kershaw develop from a precocious 20-year-old to the most decorated pitcher of his generation. This city watched him stumble in the postseason and finally win a World Series in his 13th season.

In the series finale against the Padres, Kershaw delivered a performance that elicited memories of his more dominant days, as he limited the Padres to four hits and a walk.

In the third inning, he gave up a leadoff double to No. 9 hitter Jose Azocar, who advanced to third base on a groundout by Jurickson Profar. With the infield playing in, Kershaw forced MVP candidate Manny Machado to hit a grounder to shortstop Trea Turner, who nailed Azocar at home. Jake Cronenworth lined out to left field to end the inning.

“He just seems to bounce back after the not-good ones,” Barnes said.

If Kershaw remains on turn, he will make his next start on Friday, against the Cubs. His final start before the All-Star break would be on July14, against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The All-Star Game is five days after that.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.