The tediousness of spring training has crept in, with Thursday marking one month after the Dodgers first workout for pitchers and catchers at Camelback Ranch, and still two weeks from opening day.
Spring training is needed to stretch out starting pitchers for the regular season, but also long enough to leave room to adjust on the fly should things arise unexpectedly.
Like when Freddie Freeman felt tightness in his right hamstring on Tuesday during the World Baseball Classic for Canada. That could have sidelined him for a fair bit while still having him ready for opening day. But the Dodgers first baseman has progressed well enough, just like both he and Dave Roberts said would happen on Wednesday.
One day after the first baseman returned to Camelback Ranch, Roberts said the plan was for Freeman to start at designated hitter on Saturday, then at first base on Sunday, per the beat reporters on site in Arizona.
Another contingency came in the form of rain washing away Wednesday night’s game against the Rockies, pushing back Clayton Kershaw’s start by a day.
Like in his last start on Friday against the Angels, Kershaw in this outing against the Rangers allowed two home runs. Take this statistic with however many grains of salt suits your tastes, but Kershaw has allowed multiple home runs only five times in his 71 career spring training starts.
Both homers Thursday were solo shots, including one by former teammate Corey Seager and another by fellow left-hander Nathaniel Lowe.
Those were the only two runs allowed by Kershaw in his 4⅓ innings, which included three strikeouts and no walks. His 75 pitches were the most by a Dodgers pitcher this spring. The longest frame was a 26-pitch first inning, including 10 pitches in one at-bat to Adolis García, who doubled.
“There’s a few things I still need to clean up. My slider’s still pretty inconsistent right now,” Kershaw told Kirsten Watson on the SportsNet LA broadcast while getting distracted by a smiling Seager at shortstop for Texas.
“Seager has bragging rights,” Kershaw said, smiling.
To put Kershaw’s outing in perspective, last year he maxed out in spring training with five innings and 75 pitches in a simulated game. Coupled with his elbow injury the previous October and the offseason rest that followed, that lack of being fully built up was a major reason he was pulled after seven perfect innings in his season-opening start in Minnesota.
This year, now healthy and coming off a full offseason, Kershaw is essentially where he was at the end of last spring training, with still time for two more exhibition starts before his regular season debut.
In addition to pushing Kershaw back a day, Wednesday’s rainout also forced a few alternative pitching solutions for Thursday.
With Kershaw pitching the in major league game against the Rangers, Noah Syndergard — originally scheduled to start Thursday — instead pitched in a B game on the backfields of Camelback Ranch earlier in the day. Roberts told reporters that Syndergaard pitched five innings, throwing around 60 pitches, and was clocked between 93-95 mph.
Roberts also said Andre Jackson pitched four innings on the backfields, throwing roughly 60 pitches, stretching out at roughly the same pace as Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove, who are slated to start for the Dodgers on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Outside of Tony Gonsolin, who is sidelined with a left ankle sprain, the Dodgers rotation looks in fairly good shape, with seven other starters on the 40-man roster sufficiently stretched out, with still a few weeks left before opening day.
After a stop-and-start spring and summer camp in 2020, following up that shortened season with a full year in 2021, and last year’s lockout truncating the exhibition games, having a full spring training is a nice return to normalcy.