Clayton Kershaw finds peace of mind after impressive spring

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s been a hectic three weeks for the Dodgers.

Los Angeles signed five-time All-Star Freddie Freeman to a six-year deal, adding more power to an already relentless lineup. On Friday, the Dodgers took another plunge, acquiring White Sox closest Craig Kimbrel in exchange for outfielder AJ Pollock.

On paper, the Dodgers have the most talented roster of the Majors. But as they head back to Southern California after a 10-2 loss to the Giants on Saturday, they know the real grind is still ahead of them.

Here are three thoughts from the Dodgers camp. The team will open the Freeway Series against the Angels on Sunday at Angel Stadium. They will open the regular season on April 8 at Coors Field against the Rockies.

Clayton Kershaw’s health
The biggest question mark for the Dodgers heading into camp was Kershaw’s health. After the future Hall of Famer missed the playoffs with a forearm injury, the Dodgers weren’t sure what Kershaw could give them to start the season.

Kershaw immediately answered all these questions. The southpaw took to the mound in the Cactus League team’s first game of the spring and led the team with four starts, including a strong outing on Saturday against the Giants where he struck out six over four innings of work. Proving to himself that he is in perfect health was a big key for Kershaw. He accomplished that.

“No matter how you feel in the offseason, no matter what you do to prepare and get healthy, you have to go out and go to spring training and face teams,” Kershaw said. “I think, for me, there’s a bit of peace of mind that I can do it. … I kind of proved mentally, in my head, that I’m fine.

The starting pitch depth is not there…yet?
With Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and a healthy Kershaw, the Dodgers have one of the best starting lines in the National League. The depth behind them, however, could be of concern.

“I think that’s probably the start of throwing depth,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked what area of ​​the roster worries him the most. “I think that’s probably the thing that worries me.”

Left-hander Andrew Heaney and right-hander Tony Gonsolin will get the top spot in the Dodgers rotation. Heaney struggled last season, posting a 5.83 ERA in 30 appearances (23 starts) with the Angels and Yankees. The Dodgers, however, believe a new take on his breaking ball will help him reach a new level. His results in spring training haven’t matched that optimism, as the southpaw allowed 10 earned runs this spring.

As for Gonsolin, the right-hander said he is in full health after battling right shoulder issues all last season. Command issues have plagued Gonsolin in the past, and this spring has been a roller coaster. Behind Heaney and Gonsolin, the Dodgers have Tyler Anderson and David Price as potential options to start.

Although the Dodgers had some early concerns with their starting rotation, they believe they will have more depth coming as the season progresses. Dustin May, one of last season’s bright spots, is expected to return to the mound at some point this season. He underwent Tommy John surgery last May. Los Angeles also expects prospects Bobby Miller, Landon Knack and Ryan Pepiot to make an impact this season.

If Heaney and Gonsolin can produce while the Dodgers wait for reinforcements, the Dodgers will be in good shape. If they don’t, they will have to look for other options.

Which Cody Bellinger will show up?
After an encouraging performance in October and a full winter of practices, Bellinger entered the camp optimistic that he would be closer to the player he was in his MVP season in 2019, as opposed to the one who was shocking among the the Majors’ worst hitters. .

After the Cactus League game, it’s still unclear which Bellinger will show up at the plate this season. Bellinger went 4 for 27 with 17 strikeouts at Arizona. He tried a few different positions throughout the spring. Batting coaches Brant Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc said Bellinger needs to get used to a healthy body again.

Bellinger is an elite defensive center, which makes him a valuable player. But with Pollock now with the White Sox, the Dodgers will rely more on Bellinger to have a rebounding season at the plate.

“I think he’s working where he was in his peak season and where he is now and learning what he can and can’t do,” Van Scoyoc said. “He has to find out some things. He will land on something he can compete with at the start of the season. He will be well placed. »