Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was hoping Clayton Kershaw could complete five innings Friday in his final tuneup start before Opening Day, perhaps even log some pitches in the sixth. Instead, Kershaw recorded 10 outs and was charged with eight earned runs.
His Cactus League ERA: 10.22.
“It hasn’t been good, for sure,” Kershaw said after the Dodgers’ 11-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics from Camelback Ranch in Phoenix. “But tonight I actually felt like there were some pitches that were better. It’s good to know it’s in there. At times I felt like I knew what I was doing, so that’s good.”
Kershaw surrendered a combined 14 runs (13 earned) on 17 hits and three walks in 7 1/3 innings over his last two Cactus League starts, though he pitched in a “B” game in between. On Friday, six days before he pitches on the road against the Colorado Rockies to open the 2021 season, Kershaw gave up three runs in the second and two more in the third, then allowed five of the first six batters to reach base in the fourth before exiting with the bases loaded and one out and the Dodgers trailing 7-0.
Roberts, who named Kershaw his Opening Day starter for the 11th consecutive time 12 days earlier, downplayed the line score.
“I thought the pitching was good,” Roberts said. “The results weren’t good, obviously. There were some misses to the big part of the plate. But I thought the curveball was good, I thought the slider wasn’t there tonight, but I thought the fastball was there. There were some near-misses, but the life to it was good. When you’re talking about a regular-season big league ballgame, there’s scouting that goes into it. Right now it’s getting the pitch count up, and that’s what we did.”
Kershaw also struggled in spring training of 2014, allowing 15 runs in 14 2/3 innings, then went on to win the National League MVP Award as well as his third Cy Young Award. Shortly thereafter, Kershaw’s fastball velocity steadily began to decline before reestablishing some life in 2020, when Kershaw posted a 2.16 ERA in 10 regular-season starts and helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series.
Kershaw, 33 and entering the final year of his contract, said he has felt good physically this spring.
Will he be ready when the games start counting?
“I don’t have a choice, so I’m gonna be ready,” Kershaw said. “I’m excited to get going. I really am. I’m excited to get there and have that adrenaline, those butterflies, and get going again.”