Prospect Q&A: Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw's a bonus baby with an air mattress

Drafted seventh overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006, Clayton Kershaw started out on the right track on his quest to become a major league pitcher. And since signing, the lefthander dealt with just a handful of hiccups. Through his first 26 starts (117 innings), Kershaw had 164 strikeouts versus 47 walks and opposing batters were hitting .196 against him.

We caught up to Kershaw to talk about the development of his changeup, what makes adjusting to baseball so difficult mentally, and what it’s like to rise up the draft charts and become one of the top prep pitchers in the nation.

Baseball America: What do you try to do to get hitters out? 

Clayton Kershaw: Just attack. Be real aggressive. If you’re in the strike zone, you’ve got a shot. I just try to attack them early, try to get ahead, try to make them swing the bat really. Hitters get themselves out a lot, so you can attack them with a fastball and see if they get themselves out...really see what they’ve got. If they get a hit, next time around, change it up.

BA: You allowed one home run through your first 25 regular-season starts. Do you remember who hit it off you?

CK: Absolutely. I remember the place...remember everything. His last name’s Trumbo (Mark). It was a shot. I got behind in the count and he hit it hard.

BA: Can you describe your arsenal of pitches?

CK: I throw a fastball, changeup, curveball...pretty normal stuff. I try to get ahead with my fastball, strike them out with my curveball. But that obviously changes from hitter to hitter...just kind of figure it out.

BA: In a typical outing, how often do you throw each of your pitches?

CK: Probably throw a changeup 15 times maybe, curveball 20-25, and the rest fastball.

BA: How often have you thrown your changeup this season versus last year?

CK: That’s really what I’m trying to work on this season. Last year, I probably threw it three times a game at most. I’ve had games this year where I’ve thrown it upwards of 30 times. So I’m really trying to emphasize that pitch. We worked on it a lot in Instructional League last offseason. That’s going to be an important pitch for me, so I’m just trying to work on it.

BA: What are some of the specific things you’ve worked on with your changeup?

CK: Mostly, keeping the same arm speed, keeping the same motion...making it look like a fastball. That’s the big key to any changeup, making it look like a fastball. And the way you do that is arm speed. The movement will come on its will come with the grip. So I’m really just working on those two things.

BA: Has your first year of full-season ball been more difficult physically or mentally?

CK: I’d probably have to go with mentally. Physically, it’s not too big of a strain. I only pitch once every five’s not too hard. The mental side of it – paying bills, living on your own, and all that good stuff – is a little harder for me. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing.

BA: Have you made sure to buy expensive furniture for your duplex?

CK: No, I don’t have furniture. I’ve got an air mattress for a bed...really living the high life.

BA: Who were some of the big league pitchers you admired growing up?

CK: Nolan Ryan right off the bat...most impressive pitcher I’ve ever seen. I’ve never had the privilege to meet him, but hopefully I’ll get to do that at some point. Current big league pitcher: Andy Pettitte. That guy is one of the best competitors and one of the nicest guys. With his reputation, I try to really pattern myself around him...pattern his mental approach to the game.

BA: Have you met him?

CK: Never met him. I’d like to meet him, too. It would be a big honor.

BA: You moved up the draft charts pretty rapidly your senior year in high school. Has everything that’s occurred over the last few years really soaked in for you yet?

CK: It’s really just a blessing. I can’t really explain it. It’s one of the most incredible things that has happened to me. I’m just trying to figure why it happened to me and what why am I here? But hopefully I can do something good with it. And hopefully I can continue to gain experience and pitch in the big leagues one day.