The Dodgers lost tonight's road game in Peoria, 9-4 to the Padres, but a pair of pitchers shone bright despite the result. Hong-Chih Kuo pitched for the first time since being shut down for elbow soreness, pitching a scoreless fifth inning, inducing three groundouts and, at least from my vantage point in the stands outwardly showed no ill effects from the outing.
But the star of tonight's Dodger show was again Chris Withrow, who wowed again with another scoreless inning. He induced a chopper to first by Tony Gwynn for one out, and struck out Chris Denorfia and Oscar Salazar to bookend the frame. The crowd had thinned out by the bottom of the eighth, mostly due to a 9-4 Padres lead, so BHSportsGuy and I were able to move down a few rows behind the Dodger dugout to watch Withrow up close. His fastball was live and explosive -- according to Gameday he threw 12 fastballs, all within 93-95 MPH -- and he broke off a pair of nice curves to Oscar Salazar.
In two appearances in big league camp this spring, Withrow has faced seven batters. Five have walked back to the dugout after striking out, one hit a weak grounder to first base, and the other -- Jim Tracy's son Chad -- was hit by a pitch. The 20-year old Texan (Withrow turns 21 on April Fools Day) has turned some heads this spring. In keeping with tonight's theme, Withrow and Kuo's connection was chronicled by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
"I told him I had been there," said Withrow. "I knew exactly what he was going through. He told me what was going on in his head, and I told him I went through the exact same thing. I told him, 'Kuo, I was you. I came back, and you can do it, too.' He told me this might be his last year. 'No it's not,' I told him. He pitched that night, and he was lights out. I told him, 'There's nothing wrong with you.'"
Here are some other notes:
- Joe Torre said before the game that he would name his opening day starter on Saturday morning. I'm betting on Clayton Kershaw.
- Ronnie Belliard started at first base, and played four innings in the field. He made a few routine plays, but also misplayed a grounder, turning a potential double play ball (robbing us of a 3-6-1!) into a ricochet 3-4-1 putout. Since an out was recorded on the play, there was no error
- Hiroki Kuroda had his moments, but didn't have his usual pinpoint control. By my count, he threw 72 pitches in his four innings, 44 for strikes. He threw a first pitch strike to just 10 of 19 batters faced. When Kuroda fell behind batters, he was hit hard, giving up a triple to Chase Headley and a towering home run to Will Venable, who crushed a ball off the top of the batter's eye in center field. Kuroda on the night gave up three runs and seven hits in four innings
- The Dodgers executed a perfect squeeze play in the seventh, when Doug Mientkiewicz dropped a bunt as Jason Repko scored what was, at that time, the go-ahead run
- James McDonald didn't give up a run in the sixth inning, but struggled mightily in the seventh, giving up six runs, including a three-run shot over the bullpen to Dusty Ryan.
- Matt Kemp and Rafael Furcal each had two hits
- Before the game, Javy Guerra was optioned to minor league camp, bringing the total in big league camp to 46
The Dodgers are a split squad tomorrow, with a 1:05pm game in Surprise against the Rangers (Ramon Ortiz will start, followed by Josh Towers, Luis Ayala, and Justin Miller), and a 7:05pm game at Camelback Ranch against the Padres (Vicente Padilla will start, followed by Josh Lindblom, George Sherrill, and Jonathan Broxton)