Clayton Kershaw expresses concern after poor outing

PHOENIX, AZ – Spring training being more about preparation than results, it would have been easy for Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to just sweep Monday’s rough outing against the Oakland A’s under a rug of clichés.

Something along the lines of being more focused on working on a specific pitch rather than getting hitters out or being satisfied getting his work in and building up arm strength and refining his command.

Yada, yada, yada.

But Clayton Kershaw doesn’t operate that way, so when a collapse of control sabotaged him in the third inning and the A’s pounded him for five runs on two hits and three walks he wasn’t just upset about it – he was borderline fuming.

“I know it’s spring training and it doesn’t matter,” Kershaw said afterward “But it matters to me.”

And he took nothing positive from an outing in which he sailed through the first two innings before falling apart in the third with the three walks and two hits.

Kershaw never did make it out of the third, getting pulled before recording an out. His Cactus League ERA soared to 18.00 and his blood pressure rose right along with it.

At the risk of overeating, he’s perplexed.

“You pitch bad, there’s concern,” Kershaw said.

And he wasn’t about to hide behind spring training being a time to get ready for the season.

“That’s what the offseason’s for,” Kershaw said. “I don’t believe you come in to get ready. You’re supposed to be ready to go.”

Two starts into spring – and really all spring counting his side throwing sessions – Kershaw clearly isn’t ready.

He said he hasn’t been satisfied with any of it.

Worse, he has no idea what the problem is.

“I’m searching for answers right now,” he said.

It isn’t a physical problem, Kershaw insists. His arm and body feel fine.

“Physically I feel great,” he said, “No excuses.”

Just questions.

Spring or no spring.

Paul Maholm hopes his performance creates a difficult decision for the Dodgers

SCOTTSDALE – The entry point was different than he is accustomed, but for Paul Maholm a clean finish trumped the abnormal starting line in his first Cactus League appearance with the Dodgers.

The 31-year-old left-hander entered Sunday’s game against the San Diego Padres in the third inning – only the second time in his career he wasn’t on the mound to start the game. Not that it affected him considering the two scoreless innings he tossed while surrendering just one hit against seven batters.

“Obviously it’s only two innings but it felt good,” said Maholm, whom the Dodgers signed in early February. “And it felt good putting pitch sequences together and facing the top four hitters, the guys you’ll face in the regular season.”

Maholm is in the running for the first starter’s job, although a strong performance by Josh Beckett against the Padres – not to mention his clean bill of health – likely improved Beckett’s odds of breaking camp as the fifth starter.

And that would suggest Maholm’s future with the Dodgers would be in the bullpen, a role he is not familiar.

But it’s early in spring, and as last year proved when the Dodgers started camp with nine legitimate starters only to scramble throughout the season filling the fourth and fifth starter jobs, projecting definitive pitching roles on March 2nd is an exorcise in folly.

So Maholm will spend the spring preparing for a starting role and hope the esults leave no question where he fits in the Dodgers puzzle.

“My whole thing, since I turned pro, you pitch well and make them make tough decisions,” Maholm said. “I don’t have control over it, all I can do is put my work in stay healthy, pitch well and it will work out.”

Maholm pitched last year for the Atlanta Braves and went 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA over 26 starts and 153 innings. But wrist and elbow injuries forced him to the disabled list, and what looked initially like a very good season when he tossed opened with 26 consecutive scoreless innings and three straight wins slumped to just an average one.

After beginning the year 3-0 Maholm lost four of his next five starts and never established a consistent groove.

“You start off 3-0 with (all) zeros)…there’s only one way to go,” Maholm said. “You’re going to have rough outings and have your rough patch. Unfortunately instead of getting to pitch out of it I was on the D.L for six weeks.”

With the Braves in a playoff race, Maholm hurried back from the D.L in late August- to mixed results.

“Trying to rush out of it to attempt to make the playoff rotation, things didn’t work out,” Maholm said.

He was left off the Braves playoff roster in the Divisional Series against the Dodgers, and ultimately left Atlanta for Los Angeles as a free agent.

Now he’s trying to lock down a job with the Dodgers, although the role is murky at this point. In the meantime, he’ll keep plugging away.

“Like I said, you pitch well and stay healthy things have a way of working out,” Maholm said. “We’ll deal with the other things down the road.”

Dodgers Josh Beckett relieved to get through first outing

GLENDALE, AZ – Josh Beckett has insisted all spring he feels good.

On Sunday the Dodgers right-hander backed it up.

Pitching for the first time in a competitive game since undergoing season-ending surgery last July, Beckett surrendered one hit and struck out three over two sharp innings against the San Diego Padres.

“I’m glad it went well,” a relieved Beckett said.

It was another step in the right direction for Beckett, whose season was cut short last year after undergoing surgery to remove a rib in order to relieve nerve pressure causing numbness in his right hand and fingers.

The nerve irritation – called thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) – now behind him, Beckett and the Dodgers hope he can lock down the fifth starter’s role.

Based on Sunday’s positive performance, that looks promising.

And the way Beckett feels so far this spring, he plans to be ready by Opening Day.

“Absolutely,” he said.

None of which prevented Beckett from enduring a sleepless, nervous night in anticipation of his first appearance against live opponents and an equally anxious morning and early afternoon leading up to the game.

“Just a lot of different stuff going on.” Beckett conceded of his nerves. “It’s like, OK, I’ve been pitching bullpens and now it’s actual competition, trying to get these guys out. Am I going to do something different to (get them out.)”

But after settling down, he easily handled the Padres and cleared a major mental hurdle in the process.

He felt good. He was effective. And he did it against opposing batters with an agenda to beat him.

I just think the more times I get to face hitters trying to get hits off me and trying to put themselves in good situations, it’s going to benefit me mentally getting over whatever mental things I have going on,” Beckett said.

Namely, the fear of a recurrence of TOS.

There’s a part of me that cant get that out of my head of ‘when is this going to happen again?’” Beckett conceded.

A few more outings like Sunday might do the trick.