Clayton Kershaw for most valuable player? His manager won't be leading the campaign.
With the National League lacking a dominant offensive player along the lines of Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, Kershaw has emerged as a candidate in a field of solid but not spectacular position players, including Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers and Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly declined Friday to endorse Kershaw as an MVP candidate, and there is a history behind his reluctance.
In 1986, Mattingly batted .352 for the New York Yankees, leading the American League in hits, doubles, total bases, slugging percentage and OPS.
"I had the year of my life," Mattingly said.
He finished second in MVP voting. The winner: Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox, who went 24-4 with a 2.48 earned-run average.
Kershaw is 10-7 with a 1.91 ERA. He could become the first qualifying pitcher to finish with an ERA under 2.00 since 2005, when Clemens posted a 1.87 for the Houston Astros.
Mattingly did say that Kershaw's value extended beyond the days he pitches. Kershaw has worked at least seven innings in 19 of his 24 starts, reliably giving the Dodgers a chance to win on the day he pitches and a fresh bullpen on the following days.
Kershaw, who starts Sunday on a national ESPN broadcast, is on pace to become the first player since Greg Maddux to lead the major leagues in ERA in three consecutive years. Mattingly said Kershaw should be "right there" atop Cy Young Award voting. He hesitated to promote his ace for MVP but said he understood the argument.
"I think it's a position player thing," Mattingly said. "As a manager, I can see the other side for sure."
Brian Wilson pitched one perfect inning in his debut for the Dodgers' triple-A Albuquerque affiliate Friday. Mattingly said he expects the former San Francisco Giants closer to stay with Albuquerque for about a week before joining the Dodgers.
Mattingly said Wilson would be thrown into the mix of setup men. He said the Dodgers made clear to Wilson they had no interest in him if he wanted to supplant closer Kenley Jansen.
"Kenley is our guy," Mattingly said. "Everybody else is there to get the ball to Kenley."
Players are not allowed onto the field without official team apparel, so shortstop Hanley Ramirez was sent back when he emerged from the dugout wearing a random T-shirt. He returned in a Dodgers pullover, then tested his injured right shoulder in a throwing drill and said he felt no discomfort. Ramirez also took batting practice, five days after jamming the shoulder, and said he hoped he could return as soon as Saturday. The Dodgers probably will give him a couple more days. … Mattingly said center fielder Matt Kemp, who sprained his ankle July 21, was probably 10 to 14 days from returning. Said Kemp: "I don't know when I am going to be ready. … It's an ankle injury. Ankles are tricky." … Dee Gordon has played 15 games at second base at triple A this season — the first time in his pro career he has played anywhere but shortstop — but Mattingly said he probably will not use Gordon ahead of Skip Schumaker at second base if starter Mark Ellis needs a day off.