GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw isn’t really an ease-into-things kind of pitcher. He is the kind of guy who relentlessly attacks the strike zone until either the game ends or Don Mattingly visits him and insists on having the ball.
So, Kershaw wasn’t surprised to hear he had touched 94 mph in his first inning of spring training. He was clocked by scouts behind home plate. For him the spring isn’t so much about building arm strength so he can throw harder, it’s about building endurance so he can maintain it.
“You want to be able to do that in the eighth inning come the regular season,” Kershaw said.
Things couldn’t have gone much smoother for Kershaw in his two perfect innings against the Chicago White Sox Thursday. He struck out three batters, all looking. Jose Abreu took a called third strike on a curveball that buckled his knees.
Kershaw even threw a decent changeup to Alexei Ramirez, according to catcher A.J. Ellis. Developing a fourth pitch has been a spring experiment for Kershaw for several years, though he hasn’t spent much time on it this year.
Considering Kershaw won his fourth major-league ERA title in a row and took the National League MVP trophy last year, it’s not like anybody could reasonably expect him to improve. It is intriguing to wonder how much a full spring will help him. Kershaw’s preparation time was condensed to just four spring starts last year as he hurried up to get ready for Opening Day more than a week earlier than usual in Australia. Kershaw injured a back muscle in Australia and missed the next five weeks of the season.
Thursday was also Kershaw’s first brush with the between-innings timer, part of baseball’s push to speed up play. He noticed the clock struck zero before his first pitch of the game and that the hitter, Micah Johnson, was in the box.
“I’m not quite sure whose fault that was,” Kershaw said.