PEORIA, Ariz. — Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had a third consecutive poor outing, which is either something to be concerned about or something to be dismissed.
Kershaw was taking the first approach — sort of.
"'Concerned' might not be the best word. But it's definitely not confident, I guess you could say, if you're giving up that many runs," he said after surrendering four runs and seven hits in three-plus innings of the Dodgers' 7-3 Cactus League loss Tuesday to the San Diego Padres. "You can't say like, 'Oh, you feel great and you're doing great' if you're not seeing the results."
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly was taking the second approach.
"Kersh is never really happy unless he's throwing zeros," he said.
"He expects to pitch well every time he walks out there. But we also know it's spring. He got knocked around a little bit last spring too."
Well, not really. In the last three springs combined, Kershaw has given up 18 earned runs in 67 1/3 innings, a 2.41 earned-run average. In eight innings this year, the left-hander has already given up eight earned runs and 17 hits, leaving his ERA at 9.00.
He has 12 strikeouts but has not retired the side in order.
"I focus on results. That's the best way to dictate how you're doing, is how the hitters react," said Kershaw, who gave up a single, triple and wind-blown two-run home run to Nick Hundley to start the fourth. "So yeah ... it's no fun no matter where it is."
Kershaw is not the only member of the Dodgers' deep rotation who has struggled. Chad Billingsley (10.38) and Chris Capuano (10.80) both have high ERAs after two appearances, and Ted Lilly, who is coming back from shoulder surgery, had his second outing of the spring scratched because of illness.
So although the Dodgers lead National League teams in hitting after 11 games with a .312 mark, opponents are batting .307 against them and the staff ERA of 5.63 is better than only three NL teams.
"We're getting ready. All the numbers right now, I'm not so concerned about," Mattingly said. "I'd like us to be leading the league in hitting at the [All-Star] break. That would make me a lot happier."
Sound of concern
Reliever Shawn Tolleson left the game in the eighth inning, having felt something pop in his left knee after delivering a 1-0 pitch to Gregorio Petit. Mattingly said trainer Sue Falsone's immediate examination suggested it wasn't anything major, but Tolleson was expected to undergo further tests.
"It scared him, I know that," Mattingly said.
Tolleson pitched in 40 games for the Dodgers last year, going 3-1 with a 4.30 ERA. He has made three appearances this spring, giving up a run and two hits in 22/3 innings.
The vast majority of regular-season games are played at night, yet teams prepare for them by working out in the morning and playing exhibition games in the afternoon. So this spring, Mattingly asked Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti to schedule some games under the lights, the first of which will be played in a split-squad game Friday.
Nine of the Dodgers' 40 spring-training games will be played at night. By comparison, the Oakland Athletics are not scheduled to play any of their 32 Cactus League games at night.
"It's a better schedule," Mattingly said. "We play more night games at the end of camp so we start getting on a night schedule."