Dodgers Report: Trent Oeltjen
March, 31, 2012
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It might mean nothing, but the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner will leave spring training Sunday afternoon with a bad taste in his mouth.
Whether that carries over to Thursday, when Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers' season opener at San Diego, remains to be seen. But the usually dominating left-hander was anything but in his final Cactus League start Saturday -- which the Dodgers won 9-3 over the Arizona Diamondbacks before a sellout crowd of 12,799, the largest in the two-year history of Talking Stick -- and he wasn't happy about afterward.
"It wasn't very good," Kershaw said. "I gave up runs, and I gave up hits. That usually makes for a bad outing."
Because it was his final spring-training tuneup, Kershaw's prescribed pitch count already was going to be tapered back regardless of the result. Manager Don Mattingly came to get him just after Kershaw struck out Paul Goldschmidt for the second out of the fourth inning, a point at which Kershaw had given up three earned runs and six hits, including a bomb of a two-run homer by Jason Kubel in the first inning.
Kershaw said he was missing his spots and that his slider, which he had struggled with in his previous start six days earlier, still wasn't quite right. But when asked if the slider was a concern now that the regular season is upon him, Kershaw said it isn't.
"It can't be," he said. "April 5 is coming up pretty fast. You have to be ready to go."
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt says he continues to see good sliders from Kershaw intermittently, but that the inconsistency could be the result of Kershaw trying to force the pitch, especially in light desert air where breaking balls tend not to break as much and where simply getting a proper grip on the ball can be tough.
"But he isn't going to make that excuse, and I'm not going to make it for him," Honeycutt said. "As long as he is healthy, that is the main thing. [The slider] isn't something I'm worried about. He is going to continue to work on it until he feels comfortable with it."