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DODGERS SPRING REPORT

Clayton Kershaw celebrates birthday in style for Dodgers

The 21-year-old looks great on the mound and in the batter's box.

March 20, 2009|Jim Peltz

PHOENIX — Celebrating his 21st birthday in style, Clayton Kershaw threw five scoreless innings and hit a solo home run to lead the Dodgers' 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies in Cactus League play Thursday.

Kershaw gave up only one hit and one walk and, thanks to double plays by his teammates, faced the minimum number of batters. The left-hander struck out three.

And in the third inning, Kershaw drilled a line drive off Colorado's Franklin Morales into the Rockies' bullpen in right field in front of 8,832 at Camelback Ranch.

"It was a great birthday," Kershaw said, adding that he hadn't hit a home run since his senior year in high school. "I felt clueless out there" during his home-run trot, he joked.

On the mound, "I pitched well," he said. "To be able to come out of there with 61 pitches through five [innings] was pretty good."

Kershaw said his girlfriend and friends from high school would help him celebrate his birthday at dinner Thursday. "I've actually never had a drink before, tonight I might try it out," he said. "We'll see."

A cost update

The Dodgers will not cover the cost of shuttle service from Union Station to Dodger Stadium, team owner Frank McCourt said, portraying the issue as a small part of a public transit puzzle McCourt expects local government to solve.

The Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles launched a pilot shuttle program during the second half of last season, with the so-called "Dodger Trolley" attracting an average of 704 riders per game, according to city documents. The city covered the $150,000 cost, enabling fans to ride at no charge.

"The trolley has been a fantastic success," McCourt said. "But it's a few buses. We need robust, muscular public transit for Dodger Stadium to be a vibrant place. But that applies to the whole city, doesn't it?"

McCourt also said the $500-million Dodger Stadium renovation, targeted for completion for the stadium's 50th anniversary in 2012, could be delayed if the credit crisis makes financing problematic. He said he would evaluate the construction timetable after the Dodgers complete the city permit process later this year.

He also said he expected the slumping economy would result in the Dodgers selling fewer season tickets and more single-game tickets. The Dodgers sold 24,000 season tickets last year; McCourt declined to project a specific number this season. For more, see latimes.com/sports.

Starting off

Hiroki Kuroda said he was "honored" that the Dodgers chose him as their opening-day starter, but it's a familiar spot for the veteran Japanese player.

The right-hander started opening day for the last five consecutive years that he pitched for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp before moving to the Dodgers last year.

Kuroda, 34, is expected to face Padres ace Jake Peavy when the Dodgers open their season April 6 in San Diego. Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Kershaw and a fifth starter yet to be named would follow in the Dodgers' rotation.

"It's really hard to try not to feel the pressure because obviously there is, but I try to approach every game the same way," Kuroda said through an interpreter.

Then he quipped: "I haven't won the game yet, so don't congratulate me."

The choice for opening day came down to Kuroda or Billingsley, said Dodgers Manager Joe Torre.

"[Kuroda] pitched well at the end of last year but so did Billingsley, we just decided to go with him and have Billingsley pitch at home" for the first game at Dodger Stadium on April 13 against the San Francisco Giants, Torre said.

Manny update

Manny Ramirez continued to cautiously exercise his sore left leg but not run in hopes of returning to the Dodgers' lineup next week.

Dodgers trainers reported that Ramirez has "absolutely no evidence of any discomfort" but the team was not taking any chances, Torre said.

"This is very important for us to get this solved," Torre said of the 36-year-old slugger's sore left hamstring. "It's going to take a lot for me to just not be concerned about him when we eventually put him in a game, but I'm not in any hurry to do that right now," Torre said.

Short hops

The Dodgers called up pitcher Josh Lindblom, 21, to Camelback Ranch for a closer look, just as it did a year ago with Kershaw. . . . When Torre was asked if he had heard any more regarding speculation that the Dodgers might try to obtain veteran pitcher Pedro Martinez, he replied: "No," and did not elaborate. . . . Left-hander Claudio Vargas is scheduled to start tonight against the Kansas City Royals at their spring home in Surprise, Ariz.

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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