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Clayton Kershaw takes 'positive step' toward Opening Day start

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Kershaw is the first Dodgers pitcher this spring to last more than four innings in a start during the Cactus League.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE -- Newly-minted Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw made his longest start of the Cactus League to date, lasting five innings in the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Giants on Sunday afternoon at Camelback Ranch.

"Kersh was good, he was back on track," manager Don Mattingly said. "Just being more in the strike zone was big for him."

Kershaw allowed two runs on five hits in his five innings, with both tallies coming on a two-run shot by Brandon Hicks in the second inning after Kershaw retired the first five batters of the game. He threw 70 pitches, and struck out one.

"There are still some things to work out but today was mostly a positive step," Kershaw said.

Sunday marked an improvement for Kershaw's results. He entered with an 18.00 ERA in two starts, with eight runs allowed on seven hits and four walks in four innings. Kershaw was happy with the progress.

"You're trying to build arm strength, and hope your pitches are there from the start," he said. "It took a while to get into a few innings."

Kershaw will make one more Cactus League start, in one of the split squad games on Saturday, before starting on Opening Day in Australia against the Diamondbacks on March 22.

"Any time you get to start on opening day, no matter what continent, it's an honor," Kershaw said.

With a long flight reported to be anywhere from 14 to 17 hours, the routine for most players headed to Australia will be thrown completely off kilter, especially for the starting pitchers. It's not something Kershaw knows exactly how to approach.

"This is new territory for me. It's kind of new territory for everyone. I've been on some long flights before, I've been to Africa a few times. I know how my body reacts to jet lag, but I've never had to try to compete doing it," Kershaw said. "Everybody has to do it, so there aren't any excuses. As far as how to prepare, I don't really know."

Kershaw said on his last trip to and from Africa, he and his wife Ellen watched three seasons of "Scandal." He said he might try to watch Friday Night Lights this time around, when he's not sleeping, that is.

But even with the long flight, and just one more tune up start before Australia, Kershaw sounded confident he'll be able to pitch like himself on March 22.

"I'll be ready," Kershaw promised.

Up next

The Dodgers remain home on Monday to face the Athletics, with Hyun-jin Ryu on the mound in his penultimate Cactus League start. Jarrod Parker starts for Oakland.

Sunday particulars

Home run: Brandon Hicks (1)

WP - Juan Gutierrez (1-0): 1 up, 1 down

LP - Red Patterson (0-1): 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 4 walks

Sv - Jean Machi (3): 1⅓ IP, 2 strikeouts