GLENDALE, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw mixed all his pitches into a 40-pitch batting practice session Saturday, his first of the spring. One, a hanging slider, resulted in a home run by Juan Uribe over the left-field fence on a back field at Camelback Ranch.
Kershaw also faced Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner in what amounted to a two-inning stint. No other balls left the infield (or would have at least, if there were any actual infielders on the field).
“I’m going to have to hear about Uribe hitting a home run off me all season,” Kershaw quipped. “I’m glad I gave him some confidence for the year.”
More than a confidence boost for Uribe, the afternoon was a showcase for Kershaw’s competitiveness. The reigning National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner still has it, even when throwing live batting practice to his teammates in February.
At one point, after snapping off a slider that missed its intended target, Kershaw let out a primal scream.
“He was just mad at himself because he wasn’t getting his slider over,” said Yasmani Grandal, who was catching Kershaw for the second time this spring. “You don’t expect to see that, but then again he likes to compete. The competitor comes out. Doesn’t matter whether he’s competing in a game or throwing batting practice.”
After throwing the slider that Uribe hit for a home run, “it seemed like a lightbulb went on and (Kershaw) started throwing that pitch real good,” Grandal said.
For his part, Kershaw said that “some (sliders) were good, some were bad. More toward the end were a little better.”
The pitcher said he wasn’t concerned with the feedback that comes with facing live batters for the first time. How a hitter reacts to a pitch can often be more instructive to a pitcher than how the catcher receives it. Kershaw forced several check-swings and swings-and-misses, too.
“I think it’s more getting your work in, to get your arm prepared to throw in a game,” he said. “You never want people to get hits off you. I guess that’s feedback.”
The Dodgers are still four days away from their first Cactus League game against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. Last year at this time, the Dodgers had already played two contests.