Clayton Kershaw is likely to return next year. But where?

He would rather retire than collapse again.

He just thinks not.

He would rather leave than be reduced to mediocrity.

He just believes it won’t happen either.

So when Clayton Kershaw envisions what he’ll do next year, imagine throwing.

“As of now, I haven’t really thought much about next year,” he said. “But I think I’m inclined not to play it, for sure.”

The tentative plan lacks specificity at this point, Kershaw says he still didn’t know if he would return to the Dodgers for a 16th year or move to pitch elsewhere. He received an offer from the Texas Rangers earlier this season and may revisit the chance to play for his hometown team in the winter.

As the playoffs approach, what the 34-year-old left-handed is confident he can handle the back problems he returned from earlier this month. The same goes for the elbow problems that kept him out of the postseason last year.

And as long as he stays healthy, baseball’s fiercest competitor intends to compete again next year.

“I have the right to change my mind, but to date I think I have at least one more race,” he said.

Thoughts of extending his career in the Hall of Fame were bolstered by how it unfolded this year, with Kershaw now positioned to launch into his eleventh post-season. His October preparations will continue on Saturday, when he will make his debut against the St. Louis Cardinals in a game that will mark his first time on the pitch with four days of rest since his activation from the injury list.

“If I had been sane and had won the World Series, I don’t know what last offseason would have held. Same thing goes for this offseason, right? Still do not know”.

– Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw greets Dodgers fans after team 4-0 win over Arizona Diamondbacks

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw greets fans after the team clinched the NL West title with a 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 13 in Phoenix.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

“This year has been a blast for me, personally,” Kershaw said.

Last week, when the Dodgers secured their ninth division title in 10 years, manager Dave Roberts asked Kershaw to speak to his teammates before they uncorked bottles of bubbly.

“I just think Clayton embodies everything we’ve done, everything we’re doing,” Roberts said.

Kershaw triumphed in a year that began with uncertainty. The three-time Cy Young Award winner acknowledged that he didn’t know what to expect after a 2021 season in which he injured his elbow in July and was injured again in the closing days of the regular season.

“I didn’t want to go out like this if I could,” Kershaw said.

He didn’t know he would have a choice, even though he was assured that his elbow would heal without surgery. He hasn’t felt well for most of the winter. He wasn’t feeling well in the first month of his off-season launch program, which began in January.

“I’m thankful for the block,” he said.

The lockdown offered Kershaw the opportunity to delay the decision of whether to sign again with the Dodgers or move to Rangers, who play a short drive from his off-season home in the Dallas suburbs. Shortly before spring training began in mid-March, Kershaw signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers.

“If I had been sane and had won the World Series, I don’t know what last offseason would have held,” Kershaw said. “Same thing goes for this offseason, right? Still do not know”.

Retirement was not a consideration.

As she looked to the future, she said she imagined her primary motivation for retiring would be health or performance.

“I don’t want to be hurt,” he said. “It’s just a horrible feeling. You just feel useless. You feel like you are in the way. I don’t want to worry about it anymore. So if I felt like I was going to hurt myself all the time, I don’t want to do it anymore. “

Joey Gallo, Craig Kimbrel, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers celebrate in the locker room

From left: Joey Gallo, Craig Kimbrel, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers celebrate in the locker room after winning the NL West on September 13 in Phoenix.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The last time Kershaw made 30 or more starts in a season was seven years ago. His persistent back problems have led to him being placed on the injury list twice this season.

“At the end of the day, the throw is hard on my back,” he said. “There is no way around it.”

However, he added, “I can handle it, for sure, and maybe there is a time when it can last eight months of the year and be good. I still think it’s in there. “

Regarding performance, Kershaw said: “I also don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be good at what I do. I don’t want to resist just to throw. “

He certainly isn’t just holding up this year, pitching well enough to be one of two blocks for the Dodgers post-season rotation, the other being Cy Young Award contender Julio Urías.

Kershaw is 9-3 with an average of 2.39 points earned in 19 starts, including 2-0 with an ERA of 1.50 in four games since his most recent return from the injury list.

He started the All Star Game at Dodger Stadium.

The downside is that he was forced to spend more time away from his growing family.

While his wife Ellen and their four children spent the summer with him, they returned to Texas in August for the start of the school year. Cali Ann, seven, is in second grade. Charley, five, is in kindergarten. Ellen and the kids have since paid a few weekend visits to Los Angeles.

“Cali is playing soccer, basketball,” Kershaw said. “Charley is doing all sorts of fun things, he’s kind of getting into baseball. I don’t even want to miss that stuff. “

But the children are also a reason for him to continue playing beyond this season.

“I think the interesting part is that they’re getting older and starting to understand what it’s like a little bit, particularly Charley, getting into the clubhouse and stuff like that,” Kershaw said. “There’s a part of me that wants them to know what I did, not just, ‘Hey, he got a job at one point.’

And if he can extend his career for a few more years, perhaps his children will understand that he did more than just play baseball, that he won, that he dominated, and that he helped establish the franchise’s most consistent culture in the world. baseball.