ZEBULON, N.C.—Double-A Jacksonville lefthander Clayton Kershaw left tonight’s game at Carolina after only one scoreless inning, fueling thought that the 20-year-old might soon be called up to pitch for the Dodgers.
But no official move has been made. Yet.
“We had received a phone call from our office in L.A. that they wanted to limit him to just one inning,” Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker said. “The organization this year has been very cautious about the number of innings that he’s pitched and the amount of innings that he’s going to pitch each month. So we just follow the orders and we’ll probably hear more from them either tomorrow or later on this weekend.”
Kershaw said he was unaware beforehand that he would only throw one inning.
“I had no idea,” Kershaw said. “I thought it was just a regular start tonight. When I got two outs, I saw the bullpen warming up, and I thought he was just throwing to get ready for later in the game. But they took me out. It wasn’t (the Jacksonville coaching staff’s) choice, it wasn’t my choice, it’s just what you’ve got to do sometimes. I don’t know anything about it, I don’t know why yet—hopefully it’s good, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Kershaw pitched well tonight in his limited work. He fired five straight fastballs to left fielder John Raynor, striking him out swinging on a 94 mph heater. After getting behind center fielder Cameron Maybin 1-0 on a fastball, Kershaw got Maybin to whiff at a 92 mph fastball and watch a 93 mph fastball go by for strike two on the inside corner. After tosing a 73 mph curveball for a ball, Kershaw induced a groundout to first base on a fastball.
Kershaw finished his night with a strikeout against second baseman Chris Coghlan. Kershaw started the at-bat by getting to a 1-1 count with a 91 mph fastball down in the zone followed by a 73 mph curveball. Kershaw then threw a 71 mph curve and another one at 75 mph, catching the usually selective Coghlan unable to check his swing against both pitches low and out of the strike zone for the strikeout.
“I hung my first two (curveballs) I threw tonight and I really tried to get some extension on it,” Kershaw said. “To Coghlan it started in the strike zone and kind of got out of there, so that’s why he checked his swing twice. When it’s going well, I get swings and misses like that, but when it’s not it gets hit a little bit. Tonight I definitely didn’t have it for a strike in the first inning, but I got away with some balls in the dirt for some swings and misses.”
The Dodgers have put a cap on Kershaw’s monthly innings. In April, Kershaw pitched 25 2/3 innings, and including yesterday’s outing, Kershaw has pitched 17 2/3 innings in May. One more regular start with Jacksonville would likely put him at that 25-inning mark, but it’s not certain where Kershaw will make his next appearance.
“I saw him last year for five starts at the Double-A level,” Shoemaker said. “He’s a lot more mature this year, he’s a lot more consistent, he’s a lot more confident and he had a tremendous spring training with the major league team. It was an eye-opener for them to see him pitch. He’s polishing his pitching, his fastball command, breaking stuff, changeup and we’re just excited about his progress. Hopefully he can continue to progress and help the major league team at some point in the future.”
In ten appearances this season, Kershaw has a 2.28 ERA in 43 1/3 innings despite being the second-youngest pitcher in Double-A. He has 47 strikeouts, 15 walks and has yet to allow a home run.
The seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, Kershaw became the first high schooler from his draft class to reach Double-A when the Dodgers sent him to Jacksonville last year. Should he be promoted to Los Angeles, Kershaw would become the first high school pick and the fifth first-rounder from that draft to reach the majors.