Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Pleased With Slider, Increased Velocity
Clayton Kershaw
Harry How/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw overcame disappointment from back discomfort preventing him from making a start on Opening Day by shining in his 2020 debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, he struggled his next time out, allowing three home runs in a Los Angeles Dodgers loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Before Kershaw took the mound in Anaheim, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the effectiveness — or lack thereof — would dictate how successful of an outing the left-hander would have against the L.A. Angels.

Kershaw promptly went out and fired seven innings of one-run ball, showing off a sharp slider, patented curveball and fastball that touched 94 mph multiple times. “I think everything just had a little more crispness,” Kershaw said when asked to compare his second and third starts.

His only blemishes on the night came at the hands of Anthony Rendon. His solo home run with two outs in the fifth inning was the first and only hit Kershaw allowed. He also issued two walks, both of which were to Rendon.

“I’ll get Rendon out one of these days, I guess. Other than that it was a good night,” Kershaw said.

Rendon has given countless pitchers a difficult time, but he and Kershaw are forever linked because of the home run in Game 5 of the 2019 National League Division Series. “He’s just a great hitter,” Kershaw added of Rendon.

“I think with him and Trout in the middle of their lineup, they’ve got two of the best 10 or 15 hitters in the game, I think; probably better than that, honestly. It’s a little bit of a grind to get through those two guys. Rendon doesn’t strike out hardly at all, so it’s just a tough at-bat no matter what.”

Kershaw’s entire arsenal otherwise kept the rest of the Angels off balance. “The slider is huge for me all the way around,” he said.

“If I’m able to throw that behind in the count for strikes, and then with two strikes get guys to swing and miss, they can’t just sit on one pitch the entire game. I think I threw more curveballs, which was good. (Austin) Barnes did a good job of making sure we threw that a little more. It was a good night all around.”

Kershaw’s velocity holding

Beyond Kershaw having great command of all pitches in his first start of the season, his velocity was up compared to recent years. It leveled off some in a second outing, but returned against the Angels.

It is not be-all, end-all for Kershaw, but he it comes with some relief. “It’s not everything, but I knew it was in there. That’s what frustrating, is the last couple years it’s been hard to figure out why it hasn’t been coming out the way I wanted to,” he said.

“Obviously you still grind and try to make good starts. We threw a lot of different things at it. Our strength and conditioning guys, training staff, offseason stuff, everybody did a great job with me trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t work.

“I can’t pinpoint one specific thing, but all the things we’ve tried, there’s a lot of things that have stuck. It is gratifying, for sure.”

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