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Clayton Kershaw acknowledges rotation's challenges ahead

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Just because Clayton Kershaw seems to operate on a superhuman level does not mean he is without his concerns in the wake of the rotation’s bad news Thursday.

Shortly after pitching two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut, Kershaw acknowledged the challenge that is ahead now that Brett Anderson is lost for three to five months following arthroscopic back surgery Thursday. It is Anderson’s second back surgery since 2014.

The loss of Anderson for at least the first half comes on top of losing Zack Greinke in the offseason.

“Any time you have injuries, you just to have one more guy almost pitch above expectations,” Kershaw said. “It’s one thing to play to the expectations you have individually that you’re supposed to do. But when guys are constantly having to step up and step up, it gets tough. We’ll see.”

It was only a few weeks ago when Kershaw was talking about every player just doing their job and the team will be just fine. It's interesting how one key injury can alter perception of the season ahead.

The left-hander, whose sixth consecutive Opening Day start is in one month, knows there is a fine line between doing your part and trying to do too much to cover for the loss of an important piece. The results from trying too hard are often destructive.

“It doesn’t really affect me,” Kershaw said. “My goal is every fifth day to pitch nine innings and not give up a run. That’s my goal. Regardless of who is here, that’s kind of individually my goal and that doesn’t change with who is in the rotation.”

As of now, the Dodgers do not believe they look outside of the organization for a starting pitcher. Mike Bolsinger, Brandon Beachy, Carlos Frias and even Zach Lee will be considered for the rotation opening. Behind that group are youngsters such as Jose De Leon and Julio Urias.

“Yeah, you don’t ever want to have to tap into that depth this early, but this is the benefit of having this sort of depth,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said. “As soon as something like this happens, you hope you can backfill and create options for yourself, but we are in a position where we have a lot of options and we certainly don’t need to [bring in a pitcher via trade].”

To emphasize the point, Zaidi added that the Dodgers are not on the phones asking about external options, although he admitted that finding somebody to listen to a trade offer at this time of the year would be difficult.

The Dodgers were confident that Anderson could stay healthy, and not just because he was able to pitch well for the entire season last year. Zaidi said there was no buyer’s remorse for the $15.8 million qualifying offer Anderson was extended in the offseason.

“Going through the diagnosis, we were told the chance of reoccurrence on this was pretty low, something around 10 percent of the time, so it’s obviously an unfortunate thing to happen,” Zaidi said. “He had a healthy season last year, he came in this year in great shape and was doing a lot of preventative stuff to keep something like this from happening.”

After the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed that Anderson’s surgery already has taken place.

“That’s a bummer,” Kershaw said. “From a team standpoint, obviously he was such a big part of it last year and he was able to stay healthy. That was the knock on him. I’ve known him since we were 16, so I know the kind of stuff he has. And just personally, I can’t imagine going through one back surgery, let alone two. I feel bad for him.”

If there was a positive Thursday, it was not only Kershaw’s two scoreless innings, but Joe Blanton’s two perfect innings that followed. Yimi Garcia, Adam Liberatore and Matt West also delivered scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

That Kershaw found fault in the outing because of an inconsistent fastball was Roberts’ first inside glimpse at the intense competitive streak that lives within his ace.

“That’s the sign of a great one,” Roberts said. “You’re always expecting greatness from yourself and you’re your toughest critic. It all goes back to playing the right way, winning the right way. It’s a results-driven business, but to be critical on the process and how you go about it, that’s why he’s great.”