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Kershaw pays for his mistakes

He again lacks command of his pitches in a 2-0 loss to the White Sox, but the Dodgers say he's here to stay.

June 27, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

Seven starts into his major league career, Clayton Kershaw is still winless. The last time the 20-year-old left-hander won a game at any level was last August in double A.

The gem of the Dodgers' farm system is 0-2 and has an earned-run average of 4.36. He has walked 22 batters in 34 innings. And he's frustrated.

"I'm getting by," Kershaw said. "I'm pitching, probably, mediocre at best, sometimes average. It's not what I'm up here to do."

Or what fans expected when he was called up from Jacksonville last month.

Kershaw absorbed his second loss Thursday when he pitched four-plus innings in the Dodgers' 2-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Dodger Stadium, giving up two runs, six hits and four walks. He had two wild pitches, the second of which led to the second run for the visitors.

But whatever trouble Kershaw has had in the majors isn't enough to convince Manager Joe Torre that he would be better served refining his craft in the minors.

"I don't necessarily see him going backward in the quality of his starts," Torre said. "I think he's learning something. It might be something subtle every time out. I don't see him as being lost out there or not feeling he can handle the situation."

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said he hasn't even considered the possibility of optioning Kershaw to Jacksonville.

"This is where you want him to continue to improve his trade," Honeycutt said.

The problem, Kershaw said, "is the same every time."

That is, command.

"You want your command of all three pitches," Kershaw said. "Lately, it's been one or two."

Thursday, he was able to throw his curveball for strikes but couldn't locate his changeup and was inconsistent with his mid-90s fastball.

Kershaw started the second inning by walking Jermaine Dye and the third by issuing a free pass to Orlando Cabrera. Both of them scored.

"In order to win, in order to go deeper into game, you've got to at least show you can throw three for strikes," Kershaw said. "I know I can do it. I'll do it."

He knows, he said, because he's doing it between starts.

Honeycutt calls himself a witness to that progress, saying he has seen Kershaw sharpen his breaking ball and stay tall on his back leg to keep his fastball low.

Whatever Kershaw fails to do in games, Honeycutt said, has added significance because of the Dodgers' lack of run production. Every mistake could cost him the game.

In his seven starts, the Dodgers have scored eight runs while Kershaw has been in the game. Thursday, the Dodgers had five hits the entire game.

"We're asking this kid on certain evenings to be perfect and not give up anything," Honeycutt said. "That's unrealistic."

And, Honeycutt noted, Kershaw didn't let the game on Thursday get out of hand.

Trailing 2-0 in the third, he had two men on with one out and prevented either of them from scoring. He put men on the corners to start the fourth but escaped unscathed, ending the threat by delivering a full-count curveball to strike out Cabrera looking.

That, catcher Danny Ardoin said, is a sign that Kershaw won't have his confidence dented regardless of what happens.

"I saw that in spring training," said Ardoin, who caught Kershaw on Thursday. "He's got that grit in him. He's resilient and that's a great quality to have in a young man."


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