Clayton Kershaw pounded the strike zone on getaway day Saturday at Camelback Ranch, pitching into the fifth inning against the Giants in his fourth and final spring training start.
The Dodgers left-hander got started right away, throwing nothing but strikes in the first inning, striking out all three batters in the opening frame.
Kershaw allowed a run on three hits, and struck out six. By rough count, he threw two-thirds of his 57 pitches for strikes, including 10 swinging strikes.
The numbers have been good for Kershaw in Cactus League play, allowing four runs in 11⅔ innings, with three walks and 13 strikeouts, the latter at a 31-percent clip. But most importantly, Kershaw is healthy after an offseason of mostly rest after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection in the left elbow that balked last season, costing him most of the second half.
Despite the truncated spring training depriving starting pitchers of time to fully build up arm strength, the front three of the Dodgers rotation seems to be in fairly good shape. Kershaw pitched into the fifth on Saturday, facing one batter in his final frame. Walker Buehler, the opening day starter, pitched into the fifth inning in his first spring start then five innings in a backfield game last week. Buehler starts the Freeway Series opener Sunday in Anaheim. Julio Urías pitched four innings in his last start, and is slated to pitch Monday against the Angels at Dodger Stadium in his final spring tuneup.
That’s a mostly built-up trio, especially when backed by a bullpen with extra roster space for the first three-plus weeks of the regular season. There are worse places to be, as a pitching staff.
Two debuts: one good, one bad
Craig Kimbrel, one day after getting acquired from the White Sox, made his Dodgers debut. Kimbrel started the seventh inning by allowing a double, followed by back-to-back home runs by Austin Dean and Brett Auerbach. Kimbrel allowed a single (that came around to score after he left) before striking out his fifth batter faced, the only out the right-hander recorded on Saturday.
On the bright side, Phil Bickford — who experienced arm soreness before camp and has been playing catch-up all spring training — made his first Cactus League appearance on Saturday. The right-hander pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two.
The Dodgers are back in Southern California to start the Freeway Series on Sunday night against the Angels in Anaheim (6:05 p.m. PT). Walker Buehler starts the opener in his final tuneup before opening day, facing new Angels right-hander Noah Syndergaard.