Although the Los Angeles Dodgers game against the Chicago Cubs was merely another Spring Training meeting that will be long forgotten come April, much less October, there were plenty of marquee names on the field at Sloan Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Clayton Kershaw was on the hill for his second start of the spring, and he faced a top-heavy Cubs lineup that featured Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler — all of whom are expected to receive significant playing time during the regular season.
Along with Kershaw, the Dodgers started Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Kiké Hernandez, Yasiel Puig and Chase Utley.
Kershaw was coming off a strong outing in which he allowed one hit, had two strikeouts and issued one walk over two scoreless innings of work against the Chicago White Sox.
He was expected to throw the equivalent of three innings on Monday as he moves along with the process of stretching himself out for the regular season.
The Dodgers’ ace checked that box off, though it wasn’t without some bumps along the way. Kershaw struck out five batters in three innings, including striking out the side in the second frame.
He was then pushed around in the bit in the third inning, allowing a trio of consecutive base hits that led to the Cubs taking a 1-0 lead. After getting his day’s work in, Kershaw expressed some frustration in an interview with Kelli Tennant of SportsNet LA over the five hits he allowed:
“It was OK. I gave up a few more hits than I would have liked. The fastball command could’ve been better, but it was a good work day.”
As for progressing toward being prepared for his Opening Day start on April 4 in San Diego, the three-time Cy Young Award winner said he’s pleased with the steady progress:
“You just hope there’s some improvement every time out. Obviously, the results might not be there every time. You just want to feel more consistent every time. I think I’m on a good path. Not there yet by any means, but I’m getting closer.”
Kershaw got off to what was a deemed a slow start last season by his standards. However, he went on to post a 16-7 record with a 2.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and led the Majors in several advanced metrics.
Chief among them were, FIP (1.99), xFIP (2.09), SIERA (2.24), strikeout percentage (33.8 percent) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (29.1 percent). Kershaw also led the Majors with 232.2 innings pitched and compiled the first 300-strikeout season since 2002.