Reporting from Goodyear, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw couldn't throw his curveball for strikes in the first couple of innings Sunday, something that would have spelled trouble at an earlier stage of his career.
But his fastball was working. So was his slider. And changeup.
According to a chart kept by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw threw seven of eight changeups for strikes and recorded three outs with the pitch. Seven of his nine sliders were thrown for strikes.
Relying on the two relatively new weapons in his arsenal, Kershaw was able to bide time until his curveball started dropping into strike zone. He exited his final Cactus League start having held the Cincinnati Reds to one run, six hits and one walk over six innings.
"It's something you're seeing more and more confidence in," Honeycutt said of his changeup and slider.
Kershaw struck out seven and lowered his spring earned-run average to 1.69.
"We're about as close as we're going to get to the real thing, so everything feels good," Kershaw said.
New approach working for Blake
Casey Blake is 36, but said he still considers himself a work in progress.
He said he has taken a new approach to hitting this spring, focusing less on the mechanical aspects of his swing.
"Usually, I'll get in the cage, re-watch some film, really worry about my swing," he said. "I feel like I've been pretty mindless when it comes to my swing and I've been working on my timing more than anything."
Blake, who ranks among the Cactus League leaders with a .375 average, doubled and scored a run Sunday.
Blake is a notoriously slow starter — he has a career .241 average in March and April — but is hoping he can change that this season.
"Hopefully, I can be more consistent with my mental approach to the game in the start of the season and not try to dwell too much on how I start," he said. "Kind of like my spring training approach — try not to worry about my swing or the results."
Options for Ortiz
With a spring ERA of 1.15, Ramon Ortiz appears to be a lock to make the Dodgers' opening-day roster. Unknown is whether he'll be used as the fifth starter or a long reliever.
Ortiz's reluctance to pitch out of the bullpen was part of the reason he was traded by the Angels to the Cincinnati Reds after the 2004 season. But at 36, Ortiz is more open to that kind of role.
He pitched a scoreless inning Sunday, after pitching a scoreless two-thirds the previous day.
"I've never done it, but there's always a first time," he said.
Russell Martin was one for four with a walk and caught seven innings of a minor league game. Manager Joe Torre said Martin will play in the Dodgers' game in Tucson on Tuesday. . . . Doug Mientkiewicz, who was told by Torre that he wouldn't make the team, wasn't granted his release by the Dodgers even though he asked for one. "If something should happen to Garret [Anderson] in the last week, we would most likely turn to Doug," General Manager Ned Colletti said. Mientkiewicz can opt out of his minor league contract and become a free agent Friday.