The impact of Clayton Kershaw's shaky early spring

Clayton Kershaw is upset with his results this spring.

After walking three Oakland A's batters and giving up a couple of RBI hits in the third inning of his second spring start, Kershaw told reporters in Arizona, "I'm searching for answers right now."

This kind of accountability is refreshing, of course, since most pitchers after a bad Cactus League start will tell you they felt "great," and were unconcerned with the results. But is Kershaw's concern telling in any way? It sounded a bit familiar, considering a year ago he was saying exactly the same kinds of things.

Kershaw has started two games this spring and looked nothing like himself. In four innings, he has as many walks (four) as strikeouts and he has given up seven hits and eight runs.

The minute Kershaw got out of the desert a year ago, things changed. He walked to the mound at Dodger Stadium and pitched a four-hit shutout, improbably hitting the home run that propelled the Dodgers to victory over the San Francisco Giants on Opening Day. He went on to win his second Cy Young award in three seasons.

So, take his Arizona comments with a grain, if not a shaker-full, of salt. On the other hand, they're not entirely to be dismissed. There is one glaring difference between 2013 and 2014: Australia.

When Kershaw expressed his frustration last spring, he had 20 more spring innings to get things right and he did just that, ironing out his command issues in time for the season. If the Dodgers keep Kershaw on his current turn, he would pitch Opening Day in Sydney on March 22, giving him just two more Cactus League tuneups and about eight or nine more innings, tops.

So, should the Dodgers hold him out of the Australia series? You could probably build a pretty good argument for that, considering they're trying to get a better handle on his innings after he pitched 259 of them a year ago. But Zack Greinke has already been essentially eliminated from those games by his strained calf and Arizona manager Kirk Gibson has let it be known that Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill will pitch those games.

It's not as if the Dodgers couldn't compete in those games with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren on the mound, but they'd certainly stand a better shot of flying home happy if Kershaw pitched in one of them. He still has time to get a positive roll heading into the season, but less time than you might think.