Notes: Kershaw impresses in debut
Dodgers prospect strikes out three with bases loaded
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Top prospect Clayton Kershaw made his debut in a Major League Spring Training game in Tuesday's split-squad nightcap, and it was eventful.He went 2-0 to the first batter, Luis Jimenez, grooved a fastball, and Jimenez turned it around for a home run. "I got that out of the way early," said Kershaw. He also was victimized by two bad-hop hits and hit a batter to load the bases, but escaped by striking out the side. "I had fun. A lot of fun," said Kershaw, still 19. "I had the nerves flowing, but it was good to get it under my belt. I walked off and got congratulated by Joe Torre and Don Mattingly and Rick Honeycutt. That was kind of a dream come true, a pretty cool thing." Torre said he expected Kershaw to make another appearance with the Major League club before it leaves Florida on March 17. "What I like the most was that he gave up a home run and had runners on base and he didn't back off one bit," said Torre. "He gave up the home run and sort of smiled as if to say, 'Welcome to the big leagues.' It's wonderful to see that enthusiasm. He was so aggressive, you had to like that." Brazoban returns impressively: While Kershaw's appearance was the most anticipated, the inning pitched by Yhency Brazoban was probably the most meaningful. Out virtually all of 2007 with shoulder surgery after missing almost all of 2006 with elbow surgery, Brazoban returned with a flourish, striking out two in one perfect inning. "He was great. That was pretty special," said Torre. "With all the issues, he was dominant tonight." Brazoban hasn't been expected to contend for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but if he remains healthy and continues to pitch like this, the club will likely make room for him. Nightcap recap: In the 4-3 loss at Dodgertown, Andy LaRoche homered and Hiroki Kuroda struggled with his command again, walking two in two scoreless innings. Kuo again: It's an annual rite of spring. Hong-Chih Kuo is hurting.
Kuo will be scratched from his scheduled appearance against the Mets on Wednesday with what was described as irritation in the back of the elbow that developed after throwing two innings on Saturday and a bullpen session on Monday. The irritation is in the same spot as a loose body that was removed last summer."It doesn't seem too serious, but in light of everything he's been through, he'll take a couple extra days before he throws in a game," said trainer Stan Conte. What Kuo has been through are four elbow operations in an incredibly unlucky career that has included two Tommy John elbow reconstructions. So any arm injury for the left-hander is serious, although Conte said Kuo did not require an MRI or an X-ray. The injury could derail the 26-year-old Kuo's inclusion on the squad that travels to China for a goodwill series against the Padres next week, if not his shot at winning the fifth-starter spot. Last spring, Kuo was in line to be the fifth starter when he developed shoulder soreness. He eventually needed surgery to remove a bone chip in his elbow and appeared in only eight games. In seven professional seasons, Kuo has pitched only 265 innings, even though he has been primarily a starting pitcher. Loaiza sharp: Meanwhile, Esteban Loaiza, the leading candidate for fifth starter with Jason Schmidt still recovering from shoulder surgery, pitched two scoreless innings in Tuesday's split-squad game against the Nationals that the Dodgers won, 5-3. Loaiza, who was hit hard by the Braves in his spring debut, was sharper with his location and velocity against the Nationals, striking out two and facing the minimum batters. "He looked a lot better," said Torre. "There was more life in his body and more life on the ball coming out of his hand. He was pleased, and I was happy to see that. This is as much a confidence game as anything else." Loaiza said he abandoned a tweak in his delivery, went back to his usual mechanics and felt better than he has since prior to last year's neck and knee operations. "I just stayed tall and drove the ball down," he said. "I wanted to keep throwing, but Joe Torre said that's it. I was more relaxed today, going back to me delivery. I felt great. I wasn't happy with the results last week, and I didn't want people to be thinking negative stuff about me." Andre Ethier, one of three outfielders vying for two starting jobs, went 2-for-4 with a home run and was only an official scorer's questionable call away from three hits. He also threw a runner out at the plate from right field and stole a base, but he came out of the game when catcher Javier Herrera's throw hit him in the small of the back. John Lindsey homered and drove in three runs. "He'll hurt some people," Torre said of the career Minor Leaguer in his first big league camp. "Make a mistake, and he'll hit a home run. He's a danger with a bat." Atkins injured: With a doubleheader, the Dodgers sent four Minor League pitchers to Viera, and one of them, left-hander James Adkins, was literally knocked out of the game when struck below the right knee by a Garrett Guzman line drive. Adkins, 22, was a supplemental first-round pick in last year's Draft out of the University of Tennessee. After taking a few minutes to regroup, Adkins walked off under his own power with an apparent bruise. Injury roundup: Torre said shortstop Rafael Furcal, who left Monday's game early with tight hamstrings, was packing for the trip on Tuesday when he was told to stay back. He should be ready to play on Thursday. Rudy Seanez, ailing with a slight groin strain, is expected to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, followed by batting practice, then game action. Takashi Saito, with a recurring calf problem, will be several days behind Seanez. Schmidt still is not throwing off a mound. Coming up: Brad Penny, the leading candidate to be Opening Day starter, and non-roster candidate for fifth starter Chan Ho Park are scheduled to face new Mets ace Johan Santana at Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Wednesday.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.