Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw celebrates his 30th birthday Monday, which comes one day after arguably his best start of the spring. The three-time Cy Young Award winner held the San Diego Padres scoreless over five innings and recorded eight strikeouts.
“He put it together today. He punched guys, the swing and miss, slider once again was good, fastball command, really good. Very efficient five innings,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. For good measure, Kershaw also broke up a scoreless tie with an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth.
“The mentality as a starting pitcher is you just pinch-hit once every five days. So for me, it’s just try to be a competitive at-bat,” he explained of the at-bat. “You’re not looking for results really.
“As long as you get your bunts down and things like that, that’s the most important thing. Having the guy waste a few pitches is good too.”
Kershaw has now thrown 14.2 shutout innings across five Cactus League starts this year. Like previous springs, Kershaw not putting much stock in results, stellar or otherwise, to determine if he’s prepared for the start of the regular season.
“I’ll let you know on Opening Day, I guess,” he said.
What Kershaw unequivocally did not appear ready for was reaching his 30s. “Right now, 30, just sounds old. I mean, I don’t feel old. Especially with the group of guys we have in here, 30 is different,” he said.
“The core of our team is 25-ish. Wife and two kids, I started feeling old, and now I’m 30. Pitching-wise, I don’t. But everything else is telling me the game is getting a little younger. “I’m not a very reflective person, but I don’t take for granted the time I’ve been here. No doubt about it. Hopefully I get to do it for a little bit longer.”
Roberts, who has been on both sides of Kershaw’s pitching, views his ace as largely the same throughout the years. “He actually looks similar to how I remember him,” Roberts said. “He might have been a little more muscle-bound before, so I think he’s amended his workout because of the back, but he’s as strong as I’ve seen him.
“With guys that continue to get older, if he has that fastball command, ball still has life in the zone and can locate it with the slider and breaking ball, the dominance at what he’s done his entire career, that’s a big ask. But I still think he’s right there at the top of the game.”
As Kershaw enters a new decade of his life, he’ll look to reprise the year prior. “Twenty-nine was fun,” he said. “Hopefully 30 will be fun, too.”