PHOENIX -- Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, revealed after his fourth Cactus League start on Sunday that his slider hasn't been quite to his liking all spring.
``It's not where I would like it to be,'' Kershaw said after pitching six innings in the Dodgers' 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers before 6,300 at Maryvale Baseball Park. ``It isn't as good as I would like it to be yet, but hopefully, it's getting there. ... Everything else felt good, but the slider wasn't where I need it to be. I was getting a lot of them up. I was glad I went back out for that last inning because I threw a couple good ones then.''
Kershaw said he is comfortable with all his other pitches -- his fastball, his curveball and his still-a-work-in-progress changeup -- and his ERA for the spring remains a sterling 1.47 even after he gave up two runs on six hits against the Brewers, including a solo homer by Norichika Aoki on what Kershaw exaggeratedly called, ``about the 16th fastball of the at-bat.''
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was quick to say that any issues with Kershaw's changeup aren't a concern at this point.
``You want it to feel better, but that last inning he threw some better ones,'' Honeycutt said. ``It's just a matter of getting his release point, and the action (in Arizona) sometimes isn't always great. I think it's just a matter of getting consistency with it. He throws some good ones, but then when he throws a bad one, he wants perfection.''
After giving up the home run to Aoki, a 400-foot drive that just cleared the fence in right-center with two outs in the third, Kershaw uncharacteristically walked the next two batters before finally getting the elusive third out when first baseman James Loney reached into the stands to grab a foul pop off the bat of Aramis Ramirez.
Still, it appeared that plate umpire Alfonso Marquez was squeezing the strike zone at times, so much so that Marquez and normally mild-mannered Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis actually had words briefly as Ellis headed off the field at the end of the fifth inning, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly eventually coming out of the dugout to intervene to prevent Ellis from getting ejected from the game.
Kershaw will get an extra day of rest before his only remaining spring-training start on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. That will line him up for the season opener on April 5 at San Diego.
Infielder Jerry Hairston started and played five innings at shortstop, making three hard throws to first base and a fourth during a rundown play, all without any hesitation to cut loose with his right shoulder. Hairston, who had committed five throwing errors this spring, was checked out by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Saturday, given oral anti-inflammatories and told it would be fine to completely let loose with the shoulder, which he jammed while playing for the Brewers during last year's N.L. Championship Series.
``Night and day,'' Hairston said after leaving the game. ``I'm able to throw as hard as I can and just let it go. Before, I was really tentative. Now, I definitely feel like myself.''
Hairston said he will continue to take the anti-inflammatories for a couple of weeks, but the throwing issue, which had become a concern, now appears to be behind him.
Second baseman Adam Kennedy left the game with a slight right groin pull after slipping off the bag while completing a force play to end the bottom of the first inning. Kennedy actually stayed in for three more innings before bringing the matter to the attention of Mattingly and the medical staff, at which point he was removed.
``It was like, `Dude, you've got to tell me so I can get you out of the game,''' Mattingly told reporters after the game.
Dodgers trainer Sue Falsone said Kennedy was pulled for precautionary reasons and that the injury isn't a concern. The Dodgers signed Kennedy as a free agent this winter to a one-year, $800,000 contract to serve as a utility infielder. He is hitting .281 for the spring.
The Dodgers (11-8-4) play the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on Monday, with Chad Billingsley scheduled to start.