Commentary

Kershaw still finding his stride

Updated: March 13, 2010, 12:56 AM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw's first two appearances of the spring haven't been blemish-free. But for a guy who won't turn 22 for another week and on whose shoulders the weight of an entire starting staff might ultimately rest, he has looked good enough.

That trend continued Friday, when the promising left-hander started and threw three shutout innings in a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds before 7,213 at the ballpark.

Kershaw retired the first five batters, then ran into mild trouble. He gave up a single to Jay Bruce, who stole second, and another single to Jonny Gomes, but Jason Repko charged Gomes' hit and nailed Bruce with a one-hop throw to the plate, ending the inning.

Kershaw got into more trouble in the third when he began the inning by walking Ramon Hernandez and Todd Frazier. But he then finished with a flourish, sandwiching called third strikes to Drew Stubbs and Joey Votto around a pop fly to short by Orlando Cabrera.

With that, Kershaw, the Dodgers' possible Opening Day starter, had pitched five innings this spring, giving up a run and five hits.

"The biggest goal at this point is to get their work in and keep them healthy," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "Obviously, you want them to start showing some pitchability, which he has done. He was mad at himself for walking those two guys leading off an inning, but other than that, he has looked good."

Honeycutt also downplayed the issue of whether Kershaw is ready to take on the status of staff ace at such a young age.

"Everybody else has been throwing that type of stuff at him," Honeycutt said. "[Manager] Joe [Torre] and I approach it as we have four guys and we'll figure out the fifth guy. Ace status is something that is determined over a period of time, not over a short period of time. The main thing we want him to do is continue to improve."

Monasterios latest pitcher to step up

Although the battle to fill the vacant fifth spot in the rotation won't be decided for a few weeks yet, some of the candidates aren't making the decision any easier. Count Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios as the latest to step up. He shut out the Reds over the final three innings, giving up only one hit, and has now thrown five shutout innings in the Cactus League, six if you count the perfect inning he threw against the Chicago White Sox in a "B" game on March 2.

He has been coming into games at late junctures when the opposition already has emptied its bench. But the list of players he has gotten out hasn't consisted entirely of minor leaguers. In his first appearance against San Francisco, he got Fred Lewis to fly out. Against the Reds, he retired Votto twice, struck out Chris Dickerson and got Laynce Nix to fly out.

Monasterios, who will turn 24 in a couple of weeks, has pitched in only two games above the Double-A level and had never been to a big league spring training until now. Even if he continues to pitch at this level -- and Honeycutt says he will pitch earlier in the game the next time he takes the mound -- the big question for the Dodgers will be whether they are prepared to hand a rotation spot to a guy with Monasterios' level of experience.

"This kid has a great way about him, a lot of poise," Honeycutt said. "He doesn't let too much rattle him. He has a plus changeup, and his sinker is good. He gets a lot of ground balls and throws a lot of strikes."

Monasterios, who speaks limited English, said he wasn't sure how the Rule 5 system works, and when the possibility was raised that he might end up back with the Philadelphia Phillies -- the Dodgers asked the New York Mets to take him with their higher pick, then acquired him from the Mets for cash -- he seemed bewildered.

"I don't know so much about the Rule 5," he said. "I'm just going to have to make the team. I'm very happy with the way I'm pitching and the way I'm feeling on the mound. This is a great experience for me."

Cuban defector Chapman faces Dodgers

The Dodgers got their first look at Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban defector who signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Reds this winter and whose fastball has been known to hit triple digits on the radar gun. Chapman pitched the fifth and sixth innings for the Reds, giving up only a pair of infield singles to Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Rafael Furcal. He finished by striking out Matt Kemp and Casey Blake to end the sixth.

"He is going to be a great pitcher," DeJesus said. "He just throws gas, gas, gas, and he throws a lot of strikes. He threw me nothing but fastballs."

Chapman has pitched four shutout innings this spring, giving up three hits. But there is at least a decent chance he will begin the season in the minors.

"The guys came back to the bench saying it was coming out of his hand pretty good," Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly said. "Obviously it's not my place to evaluate him, but he did look a little bit erratic commandwise."

Bowa treated for stomach pains

Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa was treated and released from Banner-Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix after leaving Friday's game because of stomach pains.

Bowa, 64, underwent a CAT scan that showed nothing serious. He was diagnosed with a 24-hour bug, given a prescription for pain medication and sent back to his spring training residence. He probably will miss Saturday's trip to Tucson to play the Arizona Diamondbacks but could return to the coaching box as early as Sunday.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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