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Dodgers pitching shines in spring training opener

Joe Blanton retired all six batters he faced on Thursday, including three strikeouts.
Joe Blanton retired all six batters he faced on Thursday, including three strikeouts.
Rob Tringali/Getty Images

PHOENIX -- The Dodgers won their Cactus League opener, 6-1 over the White Sox on Thursday afternoon at Camelback Ranch, making a winner out of manager Dave Roberts in his managerial debut, highlighted by a pair of pitching performances.

Clayton Kershaw threw 31 pitches in his two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out two in his first spring training start of the year. Kershaw wasn't overly impressed with his fastball location, but Roberts chalked it up to his ace being a perfectionist.

"Maybe not having the command he would like, but the fastball was fine, and he threw some good sliders," Roberts said. "That's the sign of a great one. You are always expecting greatness from yourself and you are your toughest critic."

Joe Blanton, the former starter who resurrected his career as a reliever in 2015, followed Kershaw with two scoreless frames of his own. Blanton retired all six batters he faced, including strikeouts of Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier.

"When you can get outs here in Arizona, you're doing something right," Roberts said.

Blanton, signed to a one-year, $4 million deal as a free agent, figures to slot in the Dodgers' bullpen as a long reliever. Roberts said most of Blanton's outings this spring would be two innings, or maybe stretched to three a camp progresses.

In 2015, Blanton had nine relief appearances of at least 2⅔ innings, plus six more outings of exactly two innings.

Notes

Carlos Frias also pitched two innings, allowing a run on a hit and a walk. There is still debate internally with the Dodgers whether Frias should start or relieve, but the Dodgers still have some time to determine if they should begin stretching him out.

"We're going to keep him on two innings, then see if we have to build him up more," Roberts said.

Howie Kendrick batted first for the Dodgers on Thursday, and while it is always important not to put too much stock in these early spring lineups, Roberts did concede that Kendrick batting leadoff is under consideration.

"With this lineup we really don't have a prototypical leadoff guy, but Howie has shown the ability to get on base. With the right matchups, it's definitely worthy of conversation," Roberts said. "I don't want to read too much into this first game where guys are hitting, but for sure he's in the mix."

Kendrick, who walked and scored in the first inning on Thursday, has started 25 games in his career batting leadoff, with the most recent his 14 starts there in 2014.

Alex Guerrero hit a solo home run in the second inning, the first one hit by the Dodgers this spring.

Up next

The Dodgers hit the road on Friday afternoon for their first trip of the spring, heading to Surprise to play the Rangers. Scott Kazmir starts for the Dodgers, while Chi Chi Gonzalez starts for Texas.

Among those expected to start for the Dodgers on Friday are Adrian Gonzalez, A.J. Ellis, Joc Pederson, Chase Utley and Carl Crawford.