GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It ain't easy being a reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Just ask Clayton Kershaw.
The Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander twirled four shutout innings in Wednesday night's Cactus League game, a 9-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before 3,737 at Goodyear Ballpark. On Thursday, he will join the Dodgers morning workouts as he always does, then leave Camelback Ranch to catch a mid-afternoon flight back to Los Angeles.
Kershaw then will spend Thursday evening at the L.A. Sports Awards, where he is scheduled to be presented with 2011 Sportsman of the Year honors. It marks the second time since winning the Cy Young that he has had to get on an airplane to receive an additional, non-Major League Baseball sanctioned award, Kershaw having jetted to Oklahoma City in January to receive the Warren Spahn award as the majors' best lefty.
Kershaw will fly back to the Phoenix area immediately after the ceremony and be back on the field for workouts Friday morning.
``I'll be a little sleep-deprived,'' Kershaw said. ``But it's OK. It's not going to interfere with any work.''
Through two Cactus League starts this spring, Kershaw has pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing a total of four hits. Meaningless exhibition game notwithstanding, he looked every bit the part of a true ace against the Reds, with five of his six strikeouts coming against the heart of their order: former N.L. Most Valuable Player Joey Votto (twice), left fielder Ryan Ludwick (twice) and right fielder Jay Bruce (once).
The Reds hit only two balls out of the infield against Kershaw, Juan Francisco flying to center in the second inning and Henry Rodriguez singling sharply to left in the third.
``Each time out, he is a little sharper,'' Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said of what actually have been three starts by Kershaw this spring, the first one coming in an intrasquad game. ``His putaway stuff got crisper tonight as the game went on. ... I just want him to get his work in and throw his pitches. But at the same time, he is a competitor, and he goes out there to beat you. He is in that mode every time he goes out there.''
The rest of the game was basically a yawner, but the defensive highlight came from Tony Gwynn, who also went 2-for-3 at the plate. With the bases loaded and two outs, Votto drove a single up the middle, and Gwynn, playing center field, charged the ball.
Paul Janish jogged home from third with what turned out to be the Reds' only run of the game, and slow-footed catcher Corky Miller rounded third, inexperienced Reds minor leaguer Brodie Greene, who had been on first, inexplicably rounded second and headed for third with the Reds trailing by five runs, only to be gunned down by a laser of a throw from Gwynn.
Because the throw came so quickly, Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe was able to apply the tag before Miller could cross the plate, negating the second run.
A.J. Ellis, who hit a rare home run off Reds starter Homer Bailey in the third inning, was occupying the locker next to Kershaw's in the typically cramped visiting clubhouse. Although Kershaw left the game an inning before Ellis did, they arrived in the clubhouse around the same time because Kershaw did his customary running first.
As reporters gathered around the area and waited for Kershaw to take questions, Ellis looked up at them, smiling. As they then took a step toward Kershaw, Ellis, feigning surprise, said, ``Oh, they want to talk to you.''
The Dodgers (7-2-2) host the Kansas City Royals on Thursday. Chad Billingsley will make his third start for the Dodgers.