Joc Pederson shows improvement with home run, single against Angels

Joc Pederson looked a little lost at the plate in his first three exhibition games, including a three-strikeout performance against San Francisco on Sunday.

But the Dodgers center fielder was locked in Wednesday when he led off the game against the Angels with a home run to right field and singled sharply to right in the third.

"Sunday was a tough day … but from that point on, every at-bat he's taken, there's been intent," Manager Dave Roberts said after a 13-13 tie. "He has more rhythm to his swing. He's in a good place."

Pederson, 23, hit 20 homers through June and made the All-Star team as a rookie last season, but he nosedived in the second half, hitting .170 with six homers from July 1 on. He had 170 strikeouts on the season.

He's hitting .273 in the spring (three for 11) with six strikeouts.

Roberts said that he, hitting coach Turner Ward and assistant hitting coach Tim Hyers are working to bring "clarity" to Pederson's mechanics and approach.

"In talking to him, from the second half of last season, there was a lot of noise and exterior things coming to him, and the game sped up on him," Roberts said. "When you start struggling, you start trying to do different things, different stances.…

"I'm sure everyone is telling him what he needs to do to be consistent. So he's simplified things. He and Turner and Timmy are on the same page, building a relationship, so I think we're on the right track with Joc."

Rough start

If Scott Kazmir's outing against the Angels could be judged on first-pitch strikes, it was a smashing success. The left-hander faced 13 batters and threw first-pitch strikes to all of them.

It was the rest of his pitches that were a problem. Three were hit for run-scoring singles in the first by Albert Pujols, Daniel Nava and Andrelton Simmons. Two went for RBI hits in the second, a triple by Mike Trout and a bloop single by Pujols.

Kazmir was scheduled to throw three innings, but his 36-pitch first prevented him from finishing the second. He gave up five runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings and has yielded seven runs and 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings in his first two starts.

"You can say that it's spring training and it doesn't mean anything, but as a competitor you want to go out there and be successful," Kazmir said. "So, you're going to beat yourself up for four days until you can get out there and throw up zeros."

The Dodgers signed Kazmir to a three-year, $48-million contract, believing he could help offset the loss of Zack Greinke to Arizona. Dodgers fans have not yet been inspired.

"The main thing for me is that first impression," Kazmir said. "You want to go out and prove to the fans that it was a good investment and you can be that No. 2 [starter]. But as far as health, I feel great."

Rising star

Cody Bellinger, a first baseman/center fielder who is probably the organization's best position-playing prospect now that Corey Seager is in the big leagues, continued to impress in his first big league camp.

Bellinger, who hit .264 with 30 home runs and 103 runs batted in at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga last season, lined three singles to center field Wednesday and has six hits and two walks in nine spring at-bats for a .667 average. Bellinger, 20, probably will start the season at double-A Tulsa.

"He's a young player who looks comfortable out here," Roberts said. "Every at-bat is quality. The more you see him, the more you really like him."

Short hop

Infielder Howie Kendrick (right groin soreness) took batting practice and ground balls but has not resumed running, and there is no date for his return. "He's moving better," Roberts said, "but we just don't want to put him in any precarious situations."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 10, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "More rhythm for Pederson - DODGERS REPORT" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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