GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw has appeared to hit that proverbial spring training wall, but to his credit he didn't blame the Arizona blues for his subpar performance Thursday.
The Dodgers' ace, and scheduled Opening Day starter on April 4 at San Diego, put together a lackluster five innings against the Cleveland Indians, needing 96 pitches to do it. Yeah, he struck out seven and worked out of plenty of trouble, but he gave up seven hits and walked three.
He gave up only two runs despite it all, but promised that it could have been so much worse.
"If A.J. [Ellis] wasn't back there," Kershaw said of the Dodgers' catcher, "I'd probably have 47 wild pitches too. There are definitely some things to get better at."
What it really sounded like is that Kershaw is in need of the urgency of the regular season, even though that season lasts 162 games and stretches out for six long months, plus playoffs.
These are the dog days in the desert, especially now that Kershaw essentially is at the 100-pitch mark. But there are almost a week of games left in Arizona, another handful left in Southern California against the Los Angeles Angels and then the season will start after a short trip down the coast.
The Dodgers are now in a stretch where they play five night games in a span of seven days, and Thursday's was the second night game in that stretch.
"Personally, for me, spring training is not a place for night games," Kershaw said. "You're waking up at 7 a.m. anyway, you might as well just start playing day games. Too many games. We have a split-squad game tomorrow."
The left-hander practically apologized for playing the position that needs the lengthy spring training more than others.
"Everybody is basically here for the starting pitchers to put up their pitch count," Kershaw said. "Bullpen guys, position players, they're all ready to go. I'm sure it's a grind for most guys and we're no different."
The good news for Kershaw is that his 96 pitches mean he has climbed the spring mountain. His final spring start is expected to be shorter and he will probably get an extra day of rest before he makes it, probably Wednesday against the Indians again on the team's last day in Arizona.
Expect him to work on fastball command before putting another spring training in his rearview mirror.
Showing that at least his regular-season edge has arrived, he wasn't all that proud of himself, even with those seven strikeouts and the ability to work around all those baserunners.
"I guess that's maybe the one bright spot, is that I was able to pitch out of some jams, but you just don't want to be in jams if you don't have to be," he said.