Reporting from Surprise, Ariz. — The Texas Rangers were playing only their sixth game of the exhibition season, but they were still the Texas Rangers.
Except for Mike Napoli, all of their regular position players were in the lineup.
Nonetheless, Clayton Kershaw handled the two-time defending American League champions with relative ease Friday, pitching three scoreless innings in his spring debut, a 9-0 victory for the Dodgers.
“It’s good, definitely, to make sure you remember how to do it,” said Kershaw, who pitched against Dodgers minor leaguers in a simulated game five days earlier.
Of the lineup he faced, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner said, “That’s good, too. That’s always good to start out with probably the best, one of the best.”
Kershaw gave up three hits and a walk. He had no strikeouts.
He ended the first inning by snagging a line drive. “I just closed my eyes and stuck my glove out,” Kershaw said. “Got lucky.”
Of the nine outs Kershaw recorded, five were on ground balls. He gave up a hit to Nelson Cruz in the second inning, but immediately picked him off first base.
“He is unbelievable to be behind,” shortstop Dee Gordon said. “When he’s pitching, I’m going to get a lot of ground balls.”
Kershaw said he was primarily focused on establishing command of his fastball.
“Work on other stuff as we go,” he said.
On the upswing
Ideally, the Dodgers’ offense will look during the regular season the way it did Friday.
The fleet-footed Gordon was creating havoc on the basepaths. Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera hit home runs. And Andre Ethier had two hits, including a triple, to raise his spring average to .625.
Only three of the Dodgers’ projected starters were out of the lineup: James Loney, Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis.
“That’s a good look of what could be our starting lineup for the season,” Ethier said. “Any time you have that feeling and you can kind of see how things are going to play out, it’s a nice thing to have. It’s encouraging for the team and for the fans and it lets you know that hopefully we’ll have a good product out this year.”
The home runs were the first this spring for Kemp and Rivera. Kemp was two for two with two runs batted in, a run scored and a sacrifice fly.
Ethier’s first-inning single off Rangers starter Martin Perez made the left-handed hitter three for three against left-handers this spring.
“The Big Three hit the ball well today,” Kershaw said of Kemp, Ethier and Rivera.
The Dodgers are 3-1 in games started by Kemp, Ethier, Rivera and Gordon, scoring 26 runs in those games.
“I don’t think we’re too much worried about the results,” Kemp said. “Right now, it’s the feeling, feeling good at the plate, getting walks and seeing pitches.”
Cleared by a doctor to resume baseball activities after experiencing a rapid heartbeat, Kenley Jansen said he expects to pitch Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox as previously scheduled. “I’m definitely pitching tomorrow,” he said.
Trainer Sue Falsone said he should be able to.
Jansen, who spent a month on the disabled list last season to treat a heart condition, said he woke up at 2:30 a.m. Friday with his heart racing. He was short of breath.
But, Jansen said, “I didn’t feel like I did last year.” By that, he meant that he wasn’t dizzy. And while his heart was beating fast, it was beating in rhythm.
While the cause of the rapid heartbeat remained a mystery, Jansen was cleared to resume all baseball activities after visiting Dr. John Monroe.
By early afternoon, Jansen was on a practice field playing catch and long toss.