The start of Spring Training came with some disappointment for Clayton Kershaw, who was forced to withdraw from the Team USA roster due to not being able to secure a requisite health insurance policy for the World Baseball Classic.
That led to the Los Angeles Dodgers briefly curtailing his progression but Kershaw finished with a flurry as he turned in a strong performance in his final start of the spring. The three-time Cy Young Award carried that momentum into the regular season, holding the Arizona Diamondbacks to just one run over six efficient innings.
“Honestly, just had a decent first inning and then Trayce (Thompson) hit the first of three (home runs). After that, you just try to protect the lead as best you can,” Kershaw said after his start.
“Obviously giving up the (Christian) Walker home run right after we scored is not ideal, but other than that, it was a good day.”
Kershaw collected nine strikeouts and was removed after 76 pitches in large part to his next start coming against the Diamondbacks as well.
“It’s good to get the first one on your belt,” Kershaw said of the outing. “Going into a new season, it’s different. You’ve got to get yourself acclimated to the atmosphere. There’s just no way to prepare, Spring Training or not. A big league game is different.
“So to be able to get back out there and remember what you’re doing, it was nice to pitch with that big lead. It was a great way to start the year.”
Further highlighting Kershaw’s start was it came with Sandy Koufax among the 48,886 announced attendance at Dodger Stadium.
“I think the world of Sandy,” Kershaw said. “So to have him watch and say, ‘Good job,’ after the game is definitely very cool.”
Austin Barnes: Clayton Kershaw much the same
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and several teammates have remarked over recent seasons that the 35-year-old Kershaw has evolved and changed since having children and getting deeper into his career.
But to Austin Barnes, the future Hall of Famer remains much of the same.
“I think what’s special about him is he’s just a competitor, man. The same fire is in him since he came in as a rookie,” Barnes said.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, he’s calmed down,’ but he’s still the same animal inside when he goes out there between the lines. He just knows how to compete, he knows his stuff really well and he prepares really well too. He’s a great pitcher.”
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