Eric Stephen | True Blue LA
It might be 16 days until opening day, but the Dodgers' ace looked ready for Apr. 1 on Saturday with six scoreless innings against the Rangers in Surprise.
Clayton Kershaw was in midseason form on Saturday against the Rangers, but that was no Surprise to manager Don Mattingly. Kershaw struck out six in his six scoreless innings, and gave up just two hits in the Dodgers' 4-0 loss to Texas. He has two starts left in spring training before his scheduled opening day tilt against the Giants on Apr. 1.
"Yeah, he's ready. He seemed ready the first time out there (this spring), honestly. I know he's given up some runs, but it was really only one outing," Mattingly said. "The hits have been bleeders, and maybe one good swing to drive in some runs early on."
Perhaps the hardest hit ball against Kershaw on Saturday came off the bat of David Murphy, who lined a ball off Kershaw's lower left leg to lead off the fourth inning. Trainers and coaches briefly came to the mound, but after one warmup pitch Kershaw was fine and continued to pitch.
Kershaw didn't do his normal postgame running just as a precaution, and Mattingly said Kershaw was a little sore but didn't consider the malady to be anything major. The left-hander ended his outing as he began it, by retiring eight consecutive Rangers.
The next start for Kershaw will likely be Friday against the Reds at Camelback Ranch, followed by a shortened final tune-up start on March 27 against the Mariners in Peoria, the final Cactus League contest for the Dodgers.
Matt Harrison nearly matched Kershaw for the Rangers, as he gave up just one hit in his five scoreless innings, with three strikeouts. The Dodgers only had two hits on the day, with one coming on an infield hit by Yasiel Puig, a ground ball to shortstop in the seventh inning. Puig was then caught stealing.
"He accounted for 50% of our offense," quipped Mattingly after the game.
One pitcher who did not fare well was Brandon League, who pitched to seven batters in the seventh inning but only retired one. Murphy was the first batter League faced and promptly greeted him with a home run to right field on League's second pitch. League allowed all four runs scored by Texas.
"You don't want to give up runs, but I'd rather he give them up here and get them out of his system," Mattingly said. "I'm not going to be concerned over one outing. He's thrown the ball pretty well all spring."
- The Dodgers changed their original outfield configuration, and opened the game with Alfredo Amezaga in left field, Puig in center field, and Alex Castellanos in right field. "I wanted to see Amezaga in left; I had seen a lot of him in center. Casty played left yesterday so I put him in right. Puig we just kind of play all over, to get him comfortable," Mattingly said.
- Javy Guerra struck out both batters he faced on Saturday, his first Cactus League game action since Mar. 3. He had thrown a few times on the back fields at Camelback Ranch in the interim.
- Amezaga accounted for the other Dodger hit, a leadoff single in the first inning. Like Puig, Amezaga was thrown out trying to steal.
- Old friend Josh Lindblom, whom the Dodgers tagged for three ninth-inning runs in a tie game on Mar. 7, pitched a spotless ninth inning on Saturday with two strikeouts.
Sunday will be a busy day for the Dodgers as they not only play a pair of split squad games at 1 p.m., but will also likely make several roster cuts after the games. The Dodgers have single games on the schedule every day after Sunday until they break camp on Mar. 27, and there simply isn't a need for all 48 players currently in big league camp.
Hyun-jin Ryu starts for the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch against Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers, the second straight outing for Ryu against Milwaukee. Across the valley, Ted Lilly starts for the Dodgers at Talking Stick against Trevor Cahill and the Diamondbacks.