PHOENIX -- Clayton Kershaw won't be able to partake in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the Los Angeles Dodgers' longtime ace revealed in an interview with reporters Friday afternoon, frequently calling the sudden turn of events "disappointing."
Kershaw wouldn't disclose details, but a source with knowledge of the situation said he was unable to attain insurance for his contract, likely because of his history with back injuries. Kershaw, who will turn 35 next month, said he is nonetheless "a hundred percent healthy" and had the full support of the Dodgers throughout the process.
"Super disappointing," Kershaw said. "We tried a lot of different things. All sides, we really tried to make it work. Nothing's wrong with me; it just didn't work out. I really wanted to do it, I really wanted to be a part of that group. Probably my last chance to do it, so I really wanted to do it. Just didn't work out for a number of reasons. Disappointing, but it's OK, I'll be ready for the season, ready to go."
Teams require their 40-man-roster players to get their contracts insured before taking part in the World Baseball Classic in order to protect them in the event of injury during the tournament. The vast majority of those cases are handled through a private company that works with Major League Baseball, but players can seek out other third parties in hopes of getting insured. Kershaw, a source familiar with the process said, spent at least the last couple weeks exploring different avenues before ultimately deciding Friday that it might not be feasible.
Kershaw, a nine-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner, has spent time on the injured list with back-related ailments in five of the last seven seasons, most recently missing about a month on two separate occasions in 2022.
Kershaw remained vague when asked to identify the specific reason he wouldn't participate in the tournament, saying: "There were some factors that were making it hard for me to play, and I tried to work it out on my own, tried to work it out with MLB, the union, the team. Everybody worked hard to try to make it work, and I wasn't able to."
The World Baseball Classic -- a round-robin tournament featuring 20 countries, last played in 2017 -- will take place from March 8 to 21, culminating in Miami. Kershaw was announced as part of a stacked Team USA squad when rosters were unveiled on Feb. 9, joining captain Mike Trout as well as fellow stars like Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Trea Turner, Will Smith, Pete Alonso, Tim Anderson and Adam Wainwright, among others.
"It's almost like an All-Star Game with meaning," Kershaw said. "I was getting really excited."
"It's unfortunate that Clayton won't be able to pitch for us. Clayton's desire to wear USA across his chest and represent his country was evident very early on in this process," Team USA general manager Tony Reagins wrote in a statement. "We would have loved to have this future Hall of Famer on the mound for us, we respect all that he would bring to this clubhouse and this group of men. We now have to pivot and turn our focus toward the next man up as we prepare to defend the WBC title. I'm confident in the roster that we've built and we look forward to getting everyone together in just a few weeks."
Kershaw will play the 2023 season on a one-year contract that will pay him $20 million. The future Hall of Fame left-hander has signed back-to-back one-year deals because he didn't want to commit to playing beyond those upcoming seasons.
Kershaw said he previously didn't give much consideration to taking part in the World Baseball Classic, focusing instead on getting ready for the upcoming major league season. This year, however, the structure of the tournament and his health throughout the winter -- not to mention the fact that he is in the late stages of his career -- prompted him to want to take part.
"I'm frustrated," Kershaw said. "They should make it easy for guys that want to play to play. Obviously if the team doesn't want you to play that's one thing. But if you have the team's blessing, like I do, it should be easier. They should probably look into that."