NEW YORK -- Clayton Kershaw said he was ready for his first game in New York.
“I got that first start out of the way,” Kershaw said of his major league debut on Sunday, when he struck out seven in six innings and gave up two runs.
When the prized 20-year-old left-hander takes the mound today at Shea Stadium to face the Mets, he’ll do so wearing the number worn by his boyhood idol, former San Francisco and Texas first baseman Will Clark. The No. 22 jersey was given to him by pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney, who agreed to take the No. 21 shirt that became free when Esteban Loaiza was designated for assignment last week.
Kershaw, who wore No. 54 in his big league debut, never had No. 22 in the minors. He said it was the number he always had playing travel ball as a teenager in Texas.
“I used to like to play first base,” he said.
Kershaw laughed when told that he could trade positions with first baseman James Loney, who has often said he wants to relive his high school days as a pitcher. “He can probably pitch better than I can hit,” Kershaw said.
Sweeney said he had no problem offering Kershaw his number, noting that Kershaw is “going to be in this uniform for a long, long time. It’s something important to do from an organizational standpoint.”
Like Kershaw, Sweeney has a special attachment to his new number, which he said is a tribute to his late former teammate Ken Caminiti. Sweeney wore the number last season, but lost it to Loaiza because he was late to re-sign.
Sweeney, who grounded out in the fifth inning Thursday to lower his average to .095, said he didn’t think his age was a factor in his struggles at the plate, noting that as a bench player “I’ve rested my entire career.”
“I take care of myself,” the 38-year-old said. “I feel better than I did five years ago because I’ve honed in on a routine.”
Sweeney said that in tough stretches like this, he tries to think about people like Caminiti, who helped him in his career.
On the inside of every cap he wears, Sweeney writes the names of his parents, his uncle, and late Angels coach Jimmie Reese. Sweeney started his career in the Angels organization.
Rafael Furcal will probably have to play some games in a minor league rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Las Vegas before returning to the lineup, Manager Joe Torre said. Furcal, who is hitting a team-best .366, last played on May 5.
Torre said he was still uncertain of when Furcal would be able to play again. The shortstop is in Los Angeles receiving treatment from team physical therapist Sue Falsone.
Torre said he would like Jason Schmidt to throw 85 pitches in a minor league rehab start before he returns from the disabled list. Schmidt can be on a rehab assignment for up to 30 days, meaning it can be extended until June 9.
“If you can throw 85, you can throw 100,” Torre said.
Schmidt is scheduled to make his fourth rehab start for Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday, which would be his first outing on four days’ rest.