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Clayton Kershaw appreciates tougher tests as spring progresses

MESA, Ariz. -- The top of the Chicago Cubs’ order came fast and furious at Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, providing an ideal test in his second start of the spring.

Working with a fastball and curveball beneath his high standards, Kershaw bobbed and weaved over three innings, giving up five hits while striking out five. It was the former that he focused on more.

“I just gave up too many hits,” Kershaw said. “I think they were all singles, which was good, but five hits in three innings was too many.”

The Cubs managed to cash in the hits for only a single run, as reigning rookie of the year Kris Bryant delivered an RBI single in the third inning. Talented youngster Javier Baez scored the run. In addition, the Cubs had Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler in the lineup.

“Yeah, you always want to face a regular lineup, just to see where you stack up,” Kershaw said. “They’re still missing [Anthony] Rizzo, [Dexter] Fowler and [Jason] Heyward, so they’re still missing guys. It’s a good lineup for sure.”

Kershaw still is expected to get in at least four more appearances before taking the mound April 4 for the season opener at San Diego, and despite the singles parade, he feels as if he is right on track.

“I think so," he said. “Physically I feel good. I didn’t feel like I was getting tired or anything, so that was good. I got another inning out there in the bullpen, so [it’s been a] good progression.”

Manager Dave Roberts was more than willing to focus on the positives of Kershaw's outing.

“I think typically in talking to [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt], his slider isn’t as sharp in Arizona, but today it was sharp and had depth,” Roberts said. “I think maybe [there was] a missed location on a couple pitches. But for me it was positive.”

While others might say they put zero stock into spring training results, Kershaw is not in that group. Not by a long shot.

“I mean, the whole goal of being down here is getting hitters out so you know where you stack up,” he said. “That’s how you get better. You don’t bet better by working on your mechanics, you get better by getting hitters out.”

In that sense, allowing six baserunners while recording nine outs was not something that satisfied him, even if the Cubs scored just once when he was pitching. As the spring progresses, he is interested in seeing lineups get tougher and tougher.

“During the regular season, sure you’ll take any lineup they throw out there, but during spring training it’s nice to know how you stack up for sure,” Kershaw said.