Clayton Kershaw's earned-run average in the Cactus League last year was 9.20. The year before that, it was 4.18.
If Kershaw looked in recent springs like a pitcher who still required time to fine-tune his mechanics, he appeared on Thursday as if he was already in midseason form.
"It felt good to throw strikes," Kershaw said. "It felt good to work in all my pitches and make some adjustments when I needed to. Overall, good first day."
"We had a good rhythm going, that's for sure," Ellis said. "Real easy feeling."
About the only complaints Kershaw had about his start were a couple of first-inning sliders that remained high in the strike zone. But Kershaw was pleased with how he rectified the problem, saying, "I was able to make the adjustment in the second inning, which is what you want to see this time of year."
For Kershaw and Ellis, the game Thursday was their first since baseball's new pace-of-game rules were introduced. Following every third out, a clock in center field started to count down from 2 minutes and 25 seconds, which is the time by which the first pitch of the next half-inning must be delivered.
"I kind of did notice it, actually," Kershaw said. "I did my normal routine in between innings and stuff. I realized it clicked down to zero before I had thrown a pitch in the first inning. I don't know if the batter was in the box. I don't know whose fault that is, but it definitely was zero."
Said Ellis: "You see a clock counting down, you're always going to move a little quicker. It's nature. Seeing a clock running down, you hope there's not a bomb on the other end of it."
First day of school
Right-hander Chris Hatcher pitched a scoreless inning in his first game with the Dodgers, but loaded the bases before recording the final out.
"Just amped up," Hatcher said. "First-day jitters, I guess you would call it."
Acquired in the multi-player trade that sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Miami Marlins, the hard-throwing Hatcher is a candidate to replace the injured Kenley Jansen as the closer in the first month of the season.
Hatcher, who has never saved a game, said he hasn't thought much about the possibility.
"It is what it is," he said. "I think the whole bullpen is going to have to step up. I don't think it's going to be a one-guy thing. If it happens to be me, it's me. I reiterate what I said before, I'm going to get three outs before you score. It doesn't matter what inning it is."
The four projected starting pitchers other than Kershaw will pitch in their first exhibitions in the coming week. Brandon McCarthy will make his spring debut Sunday, followed by Brett Anderson on Monday, Kershaw on Tuesday, Zack Greinke on Wednesday and Hyun-Jin Ryu on Thursday. … Longtime scout John Keenan died at the age of 74. Keenan was instrumental in the signings of Don Sutton, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, Rick Sutcliffe, Mickey Hatcher and Mitch Webster.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez