In one sense, Clayton Kershaw seemed like the same pitcher who has won back-to-back National League ERA titles on Saturday: He was his own harshest critic.
Kershaw allowed four hits, including an Armando Rios double, and two earned runs in his two-inning Cactus League debut. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, it set the tone in a 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“You never want to give up runs,” Kershaw said. “I’m here to see how hitters are reacting to balls. … That’s the best gauge of how you’re doing.”
“I can live with the first two hits,” he said, speaking of a leadoff single by Alejandro De Aza and the RBI double by Rios. “I got behind (in counts) later. … Overall it was a good first time out for me.”
Kershaw said he treated the start like a regular-season game. That’s usually the case for the 24-year-old, but not always the case for everyone; some pitchers will use the games to experiment, to stretch themselves, to focus on specific parts of the process rather than the end result.
Catcher A.J. Ellis said that Kershaw threw all four of his pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup, slider). “I thought he looked great,” Ellis said.
“Kersh looked fine,” said Don Mattingly.
And Kershaw appreciated the chance to start. Some teams, including the White Sox, are holding back their starting pitchers until March. The World Baseball Classic has extended the length of spring training, adding a week’s worth of games when pitchers would ordinarily be stretching and throwing bullpen sessions.
Kershaw is regarded as one of the most competitive people in the clubhouse, and he admitted to feeling some adrenaline Saturday.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “I might as well pitch in some games.”