The last time Clayton Kershaw began a season in the minor leagues he was a 20-year-old prospect in double-A weeks away from his major league debut. Eleven years later, Kershaw was back in the minors Thursday, making a rehab start for triple-A Oklahoma City on the affiliate’s opening day as he works to join the Dodgers after a bout with shoulder inflammation.
The left-hander’s first two innings against the San Antonio Missions — the Milwaukee Brewers’ top farm club — were turbulent, but he settled in until he was removed after securing an out in the fifth inning on his 61st pitch. Kershaw allowed two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out six. His fastball velocity, according to a radar gun at the stadium, twice touched 90 mph in the first inning and sat in the upper 80s.
From there, he found a groove. He worked around a throwing error by third baseman Edwin Rios to strike out three batters in an 11-pitch third inning. After striking out on three pitches in his only plate appearance in the bottom of the third, Kershaw surrendered a leadoff single before inducing a 4-6-3 double play and getting a groundout to end the fourth.
Earlier in the week, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw, who did not make a spring-training start, was slated for four innings or 60 pitches in the game and another inning in the bullpen. Kershaw ended the fourth inning with 56 pitches and returned to the mound for the fifth inning. He needed five pitches to secure an out and conclude his night.
Kershaw walked off to a standing ovation at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark with Oklahoma City trailing 2-0. Where he pitches next has not been announced, but Kershaw said he expects to make another rehab start. This week, Roberts suggested the three-time Cy Young Award winner may stay on the 10-day disabled list for a second rehab start. He’s in line to pitch again Tuesday. The Dodgers will be in St. Louis that day.