VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Clayton Kershaw crossed the bridge at Dodgertown on Tuesday, walking from the minor league clubhouse into a world where he had trouble controlling the flow of his adrenaline and his mistakes were punished.
But when it was time for the Dodgers' top prospect to walk back over the creek dividing the camp that night, he did so with the certainty that he could strike out batters at baseball's highest level.
Fifteen days away from his 20th birthday, Kershaw pitched in his first major league spring training game, his youthful enthusiasm leaving a stronger impression on Manager Joe Torre than the pitches he misplaced in the Dodgers' 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.
The left-hander's third pitch off a big league mound was crushed over the center-field fence at Holman Stadium by Luis Jimenez, but Kershaw used a fastball that topped out at 97 mph and a vicious curveball to strike out three batters, two with the bases loaded.
Jimenez's home run accounted for the only run charged to Kershaw, who gave up two other hits and plunked Alex Escobar in one inning of work.
"I felt like I was out there for 30 seconds," Kershaw said. "It was one of those innings that could've snowballed. I'm glad I got through that adversity."
Asked what he thought when Jimenez took him deep, Kershaw replied, "I got that out of the way early."
Torre, who informed Kershaw the previous day that he would be called up from minor league camp to pitch in the Dodgers' second split-squad game, liked what he saw.
"He gave up a home run and had the bases loaded, but he didn't back off one bit," he said. "That's good insides for me."
The most concerning news of the day was that Hong-Chih Kuo was experiencing irritation in the part of the elbow where he had bone chips removed last season. Trainer Stan Conte said there was no cause for alarm, but added that the left-hander would be shut down for a few days.
Closer Takashi Saito, who has a sore right calf, probably won't pitch before part of the team leaves for China on March 12, Torre said. Saito strained the same calf last spring, but in a different area.
"What's different . . . is that last year, it was the muscle on the outside of my calf and I was still able to throw," Saito said. "This year, I hurt the muscle that I directly put pressure on when I throw, so I have to take more time to let it recover."
Loaiza looks solid
Esteban Loaiza, in line to be the Dodgers' No. 5 starter when the season opens, recovered from a tough outing in his spring debut to pitch two scoreless innings in the first split-squad game, a 5-3 victory. Loaiza credited his improvement to scrapping an experimental delivery he tested four days earlier, when he gave up three runs in two innings. "I worked a little bit on my arm angle, staying tall and driving the ball down," said Loaiza, who on Friday used a windup in which he drew his left leg across his body when winding up instead of pulling it straight back.
Andre Ethier was two for four with a home run in the day game and threw out a runner out home. . . . Game 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda tossed two scoreless innings in his second start of the spring, but experienced some problems with his control, walking two. He lamented not being aggressive enough on the outside corner. . . . Yhency Brazoban, pitching in a game for the first time since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last year, pitched a perfect seventh inning in the nightcap. He struck out two.