Clayton Kershaw working on command in spring

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After a slower-than-normal start to the spring, the main focus for Clayton Kershaw heading into his 2nd Cactus League start was constructing momentum in his ramp-up for the start of the season.

Kershaw tossed 4 1/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 3-1 loss to the Rangers on Thursday, permitting 5 hits and 2 runs — both beginning solo homers — while setting out 4 and strolling none. The left-hander considered it an action in the ideal instructions.

“I think tonight was a slight improvement from the last one,” stated Kershaw. “I felt like I had a few more good throws in there than I did last time, but there’s still some work to do. … Overall, I felt like I was moving pretty good — just need to clean up a few of the smaller things right now.”

In the afternoon prior to Kershaw’s getaway, supervisor Dave Roberts kept in mind that the veteran didn’t have a feel for the slider in his launching which he was looking for constant control with his offspeed. Against the Rangers, Kershaw appeared to have a much better grasp on his putaway pitch, as he set out shortstop Corey Seager on a slider in the dirt, froze Nathaniel Lowe with one in the zone for strike 3 and had the ability to toss it for strikes, mainly requiring soft contact when it was provided at.

“We came into tonight trying to get a better feel for the slider — I think we accomplished that,” stated Roberts. “I thought he worked both sides of the plate well.”

The slider was Kershaw’s most utilized and most dominant pitch in 2022, as he tossed it 42.7 percent of the time and it had a run worth of -10. Opposing players just batted .200 versus it, with 77 of his 137 strikeouts originating from the slider — as did 3 of his 4 punchouts on Thursday.

Yet Kershaw ignored the start sensation as though he required to hone his execution with that pitch, staying his own “harshest critic,” stated Roberts.

“My sliders, even my good ones, were getting foul balls instead of swings and misses,” stated Kershaw. “There were a couple in there that were good, but still few and far between. I need to get it going, that’s for sure. But I think I got some ideas about how to make it [the slider] a little better. So hopefully, it works.”

Conversely, Kershaw encountered difficulty with his fastball, as both crowning achievement he enabled began that pitch. He likewise enabled 2 homers in his Cactus League launching versus the Angels recently — both off fastballs.

“Honestly, the fastball command wasn’t very good tonight,” he stated. “I felt like I was behind a lot of hitters.”

Last season, the fastball and slider worked hand in hand for Kershaw. He tossed the fastball 39.9 percent of the time, playing it well off the slider due to the pitches’ 4 miles per hour distinction in speed. However, with a whiff rate of simply under 10 percent in 2022, accuracy with the heating unit will be the utmost top priority for Kershaw — specifically with his fastball speed having actually dipped in the last few years, varying from 90-93 miles per hour.

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