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Kershaw makes the mental leap

August 07, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Clayton Kershaw claims he ignores what's being said or written about him and that he doesn't get down because of a bad day on the mound. But he admitted that seeing a zero in the win column for so long irked him.

The 20-year-old Dodgers left-hander, who will take the mound today in the final game of the team's three-game set in St. Louis, isn't sure whether being sent back to Jacksonville for three weeks last month is what turned his season around. But he isn't discounting the possibility, noting he notched his first wins at any level this year in that period in Jacksonville.

"It was definitely better to get wins under my belt," he said. "That helped."

Upon being recalled to the majors, Kershaw had a nightmare of a start in Colorado but rebounded by tossing six scoreless innings in each of his last two turns in the rotation to lower his earned-run average to 4.02.

He picked up his first career win July 27 against Washington, clearing what Manager Joe Torre described as a mental milestone.

"I think there was a lot of anxiety connected to that," Torre said.

Furcal's future

While Rafael Furcal continues to rehabilitate his back in Arizona and aims for a September comeback, his agent said he is hoping for the Dodgers and the shortstop to come to a quick agreement on a new contract this winter.

"They're definitely the No. 1 choice," Paul Kinzer said.

Kinzer lamented the back injury to Furcal, which required surgery, postponed talks of an extension and most likely lowered his price tag. Furcal is in the final year of a three-year, $39-million deal.

"This wasn't their fault or our fault that this happened," Kinzer said. "If this hadn't happened, we probably would have something done by now."

If Furcal files for free agency as expected, he wouldn't be able to start negotiating with other teams until 16 days after the World Series. Kinzer said he would like to get Furcal re-signed with the Dodgers by then.

"If we get a fair offer, we'll have something done by then," he said. "He's not necessarily saying he has to test the market."

Johnson's future

Jason Johnson said he didn't -- or, more specifically, didn't want to -- read too much into how he was asked to pitch out of the bullpen Tuesday and what it might indicate about his future with the Dodgers. Pitching only two days after he threw 87 pitches in a start, Johnson entered the game in the 11th inning and gave up a two-run, walk-off home run to Ryan Ludwick.

Johnson, a 34-year-old journeyman who pitched last season in Japan and was called up last month from triple-A Las Vegas, said he learned some time ago that he's at the mercy of his employer.

"Honestly, I just put my life in their hands," said Johnson, who learned before his last start Brad Penny would be replacing him in the rotation Friday. The Dodgers will have to open up a spot on the active roster for Penny, meaning Johnson could be sent down.

Uncertainty about where he will be next season -- or next month, for that matter -- is something that Johnson said makes him reluctant to get married at this stage in his life.

However this phase of his career plays out, Johnson said he believes that the way he pitched for Las Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League -- he was 11-5 with a 3.82 earned-run average -- has set him up to land a more favorable deal than the minor-league contract he signed with the Dodgers in the winter.

"I've absolutely put my mind and body out there," he said. "Now, whatever happens, happens."


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