Cactus League: Indians 4, Dodgers 3

March, 19, 2012
3/19/12
5:54
PM PT
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw celebrated his 23rd birthday by hitting a home run in a spring-training game. One year and one National League Cy Young Award later, the talented Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander celebrated turning 24 a little more quietly, by dropping a pair of sacrifice bunts in Monday's Cactus League game, a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians before 3,101 at Goodyear Ballpark.
"I had to bunt, dadgummit,'' Kershaw said. "It was OK, though. At least I know I can get the bunt down."

Yeah, spring training is for working on everything, not just pitching. But for Kershaw, the pitching part continues to look regular season-ready, or something very close to it. He struggled in the first inning, giving up two hits, a walk and his first run of the spring in his third start. After that, though, it was pretty much vintage Kershaw, including five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

"Those first two or three innings, I was pretty erratic,'' Kershaw said. "I was missing with too many fastballs and getting behind to too many hitters. But I had a little bit better rhythm later on. Physically, I feel good. Pitching-wise, I just need to get better fastball command, and I think everything else will follow suit off that.''

Kershaw said he also threw three or four changeups -- a pitch that has been a work in progress, basically, for his entire career -- that it was working well and that he got one out with it in the third inning on Indians shortstop Jason Donald, who couldn't do anything but tap it out in front of the plate.

Kershaw has now allowed one run on seven hits over 12 1/3 innings this spring. He threw 78 pitches against the Indians and likely will make two more starts and possibly an abbreviated third one before taking the mound for the Dodgers' season opener on April 5 at San Diego. ...

For the first time this spring, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly allowed for the possibility that non-roster invitee Josh Fields could be a fit for that final spot on the Opening Day roster, for which the only competitors had seemed to be infielder Justin Sellers and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands.

Fields, the former Oklahoma State University quarterback and first-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox, spent last season with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League and is trying to revive a major league career that saw him hit just .234 with 34 homers -- 23 of them in a single season -- in five years with the White Sox and Kansas City Royals.

He signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers that didn't include the customary escape clause for big league veterans, meaning he is committed to going to Triple-A if he doesn't make the club. But Fields, now 29, is hitting .417 this spring.

He also has had several extended at-bats, which seems to have impressed Mattingly as much as the results. Mattingly previously hinted that there probably wasn't an available spot for Fields on the roster, at least at the start of the season.

"That definitely could change,'' Mattingly said. "There are still several guys playing for that spot.''

Fields can play first and third and has 22 career appearances -- none since 2007 -- in left field. But the fact he probably isn't viable as an outfielder and his addition to the roster would leave the Dodgers without a fifth outfielder would be offset by the fact utility infielder Jerry Hairston can play the outfield, Mattingly said. ...

Kenley Jansen appeared to be in midseason form in his fourth appearance of the spring, the eighth-inning setup man setting the Indians down in order in the seventh with two strikeouts and a popup. Closer Javy Guerra wasn't as good, giving up a home run to the first batter he faced in the sixth, former Dodgers catching prospect Carlos Santana, and allowing a hit and a walk later in the inning. But Guerra previously had been unscored upon this spring. ...

The Dodgers won't go out of their way to attempt to sign their former All-Star reliever, Hong-Chih Kuo, but they would be willing to listen if Kuo and his agent, Alan Chang, were to approach them, a team source said on condition of anonymity after Kuo was released on Monday by the Seattle Mariners, for whom he had struggled all spring. That probably means Kuo couldn't expect anything more than a minor league contract if he were to return to the Dodgers. ...

The Dodgers (8-5-4) will host the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, when Chad Billingsley will make his fourth start.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Hyun-Jin Ryu
WINS ERA SO IP
3 1.93 25 28
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Uribe .375
HRA. Gonzalez 5
RBIA. Gonzalez 15
RA. Gonzalez 11
OPSJ. Uribe .978
ERAH. Ryu 1.93
SOH. Ryu 25