Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw completes scoreless spring in 10-0 rout of Royals
After six innings against Kansas City, after six weeks in the desert, Clayton Kershaw reached his limit. His schedule called for him to throw a simulated inning in the Dodgers bullpen. The thought exhausted him. Kershaw proposed an alternative: He wanted to stay in the game.
“Honestly, I don’t think I could have mentally thrown in the bullpen another time,” Kershaw said. “I was sick of going back out there and simulating an inning.”
In the seventh, he faced two more Royals. Both made outs. Kershaw retired the final 20 batters he faced in a 10-0 rout to cap a spotless spring. Kershaw made six starts in the Cactus League, logged 21 1/3 innings and didn’t permit a run. He struck out about a batter per inning and allowed four walks.
Afterward, Kershaw pronounced himself content with his spring training. He said his body felt “great.” He vouched for his readiness for Thursday, when he will set a franchise record by starting on opening day for the eighth consecutive year. The Dodgers will face San Francisco — who on Friday saw their best pitcher sustain an injury that will sideline him for months.
The Dodgers altered Kershaw’s schedule this spring. In the past, he built up to six or seven innings by his penultimate outing, then pitched a shorter stint in his last start. Kershaw ditched the taper-down finale and felt pleased with the change. “I kind of like this way,” he said. “You feel like you’re still building into the season, which I like.”
Kansas City sported a lineup stocked with only a handful of major leaguers. Kershaw buzzed through the opposing lineup after a leadoff single by outfielder Jon Jay. With Jay on base, Kershaw induced a double play against shortstop Humberto Arteaga as he found his rhythm.
As it did for most of the spring, Kershaw’s fastball velocity sat between 90-91 mph, a tick below the 92-93 mph he has maintained for most of his career. Manager Dave Roberts insisted the Dodgers were not worried about the slight dip.
“The other day, there were some 87s [mph],” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a concern, but obviously Clayton wants to be in the 90-92 mph range. Today was more indicative of what we would expect. Opening day, an extra day [of rest], I think it’ll be the 90-93 mph.”
The delay did not affect him. Kershaw struck out third baseman Emmanuel Rivera and picked up two more quick outs to end the inning.
“During the regular season, our guys put really good at-bats together,” Kershaw said. “We’re going to score some runs. Definitely something to get used to, I guess. That was probably a little bit longer than any type of long inning would be normally.”
Kershaw stayed in sync for the rest of the afternoon. A batter reached on an error in the fourth. Otherwise, his line was clean.
A winter of uncertainty awaits Kershaw after this season. He can become a free agent for the first time. He has made more than 28 starts in a season only once since 2014. He remains focused on avoiding a recurrence of the back issues which temporarily sidelined him in 2016 and 2017.
“Everything I’ve been doing has geared toward keeping my back healthy,” Kershaw said. “Right now, I feel great. I’m excited about that.”
Bullpen takes shape
After wavering in the wake of Tom Koehler’s shoulder injury, Roberts reiterated the Dodgers will open the season with an eight-man bullpen.
The rest of the group appeared set before camp began. Kenley Jansen will close. Pedro Baez and Josh Fields will return to high-leverage opportunities. Tony Cingrani and Scott Alexander will be the left-handed duo. Ross Stripling and Wilmer Font provide the ability to pitch multiple innings.
Buehler to Oklahoma City
Walker Buehler, the organization’s top pitching prospect, returned to big-league camp on Friday morning.
His stay was brief. Buehler teamed with outfielder Trayce Thompson to complete the finals of the team’s annual ping-pong tournament. Buehler and Thompson defeated first baseman Cody Bellinger and reliever Pat Venditte to capture the title. Buehler departed the premises soon after.
It may not take long for Buehler to come back to the majors, but he will not begin the season with the Dodgers. Buehler will start in the rotation for triple-A Oklahoma City, Roberts said.
Buehler will not accompany the team to the Freeway Series. The team will bring a few prospects for the exhibition series, including catcher Will Smith, infielder Edwin Rios and shortstop Gavin Lux.
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