Kershaw Enjoying His First Spring Training

The Dodgers No. 1 prospect, lefthander Clayton Kershaw, is not only enjoying his first spring training experience at Dodgertown, but the fans are enjoying having him around, crowding around to get his autograph each time he moves from one area to another.

"It's still fun," Kershaw said. "It's not like it's an everyday thing."

Kershaw, beginning his third professional season at the tender age of 19, is the consensus pick as the best prospect in the organization.

The former first-round pick was one of a four who threw live batting practice for the first time Monday as Manager Joe Torre stopped by the back lot minor-league practice field to watch.

Torre pointed out that Kershaw overthrew some pitches. But, he quickly added, "The ball jumps out of his hand. And it looks like he has the potential to have a good breaking ball too." He also said the big-league club to "borrow" Kershaw, perhaps for an exhibition game.

Kershaw, on the other hand, said he should've been in major-league camp from the start. "I was a little disappointed, to be honest," Kershaw said. "But it's not my call. I'm OK with that."

Assistant GM DeJon Watson said Kershaw probably would start the season at Double-A Jacksonville and Ned Colletti doesn't dismiss the possibility of Kershaw reaching the majors this season. Torre agreed and said he wouldn't be hesitant to call him up just because of his age.

"I don't think it's [age] an issue any more," Torre said. "I think it's all about their makeup. To me, players become good players when you find out how they handle failure. A lot of it's the makeup of the youngster. But it's happening more and more in the big leagues now, a lot of kids coming up. You don't think twice about bringing a youngster, especially a pitcher, from double A."

Watson quickly added that maturity isn't an issue.

"From a maturity standpoint, this kid is growing by leaps and bounds every day," Watson said. "He tends to fit in well with a group of kids that are older than him and he's not intimidated by his surroundings. I think he's showing you a lot of those things that he's mature enough to handle those things if he were to come up."

Notified of the possibility, Kershaw said, "I kind of figure if I have a good start every time I go out, if I pitch well, I have the opportunity to get up here later in the year and help them out. If that happens, that'll be a dream come true for me. If it doesn't, I have next year too, so I'm not really worried about it."

Kershaw's high school numbers at Highland Park High in Dallas were almost unbelievable: 139 strikeouts in 64 innings, including one game in which he struck out everyone in a game shortened to five innings because of the mercy rule.

Over the season, Kershaw went 13-0 with an 0.77 ERA, allowing only 52 baserunners all season. He finished his high school career with 39 career wins. And for good measure, he compiled a 3.7 grade average in the classroom. He had a scholarship offer to Texas A & M but the Dodgers nipped him right out of coach Rob Childress' hands and signed him.

He was taken as the seventh player (and the first high schooler) chosen for a $2.3 million bonus and his debut was in the Gulf Coast League.

In a league packed with top draft choices, he was simply the best. He was 2-0 and could have won many more except his innings were limited, particularly at the beginning. He struck out 54 in only 37 innings while walking only five. Batters managed just a .201 mark against him.

He did it with a fast ball that was usually in the 93-94 mph range. He reached 96 while still in school and later in the Instructional League. His curve became a formidable weapon down the stretch. using a circle change.

In 2007 he jumped past Rookie-level Ogden to Low-A Great Lakes and took up where he left off the year before. He recorded a 7-5 won-lost record with a 2.77 earned run average. In 97.1 innings with Great Lakes, Kershaw allowed only 72 hits and held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average. "

He was then moved to AA Jacksonville, but it didn't seem to bother him and over his five starts with the Suns he was 1-2 with a 3.65 earned run average, striking out 29 in 24.2 innings. Over two starts, August 20-26, he allowed four hits and struck out 18 in 13 innings, earning Southern League Pitcher of the Week honors.

His record:
Clayton Edward Kershaw   bl  tl  6-3  210
Born- Mar. 19, 1988 
Obtained- Selected in first round 2006

year	team    w-l   era  gm  gs    in   h  bb   so   ave 
2006	GCL     2-0  1.95  10   8  37.0  28   5   54  .201  
2007	GLakes  7-5  2.77  20  20  97.1  72  50  134  .203
	Jacksn  1-2  3.65   5   5  24.2  17  17   29  .193
Final Tuneup
The Dodgers played their second intrasquad game this afternoon with "Team Koufax" besting "Team Drysdale," 6-4, in a seven-inning affair.  

 Right-handers Mario Alvarez and Ramon Troncoso each fired scoreless innings for the winning team, while right-hander Justin Orenduff struck out two and allowed just one hit over two shutout frames for the "Drysdale" squad.  

Non-roster invitee Rick Asadoorian worked a 1-2-3 inning and fanned two in his only inning of work. At the plate, Juan Pierre had two hits, a run, and an RBI, but the long ball stole the show at Holman Stadium on this day.  

Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and Jason Repko all hit home runs on the afternoon. For Repko, today marked his first competitive action in a Dodger uniform since tearing his hamstring last March. In addition to the homer, Repko put his arm on display in the second inning, firing a laser to Martin that almost threw out Angel Chavez.  

Kuroda Rated Highly
Jim Baker of Baseball Prospectus broke down the numbers for players with no MLB experience, and no pitcher rated with a higher PECOTA (PECOTA is an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm, a a sabermetric system for predicting player performance) than the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda. 

Baker said in his article, "Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, had a 23.3 Projected Value Over a Replacement Player (VORP). As it was last year, the starting pitcher with the best PECOTA is a Japanese import, albeit a less-heralded one than Daisuke Matsuzaka was.

"Adding Kuroda gives the Dodgers something that no other team in the National League has: four starting pitchers with a PECOTA-projected VORP over 20.0. True, they're all scores in the low 20s, but it beats the alternative.

"Chad Billingsley is highest at 23.7, followed by Kuroda; Derek Lowe is next at 21.0, followed closely by Brad Penny at 20.9. A healthier Jason Schmidt would certainly project that high as well.

"Only one other team has four equally promising starters in their stable, that being Boston with Josh Beckett (44.6), Daisuke Matsuzaka (34.9), Clay Buchholz (22.8), and Curt Schilling (20.2), although Buchholz is behind John Lester and Tim Wakefield on the depth chart."

West Division Prediction
MLB's Conor White lines uup the National League West this way:

1. Arizona Diamondbacks- 93-69 (Dan Haren should be good for an extra three wins)

2. Los Angeles Dodgers- 88-74  (Torre will be in the top three for NL Manager of the Year)

3. San Diego Padres- 85-76 (Their pitching will keep them in the race until the bitter end)

4. Colorado Rockies- 84-77 (One tiny step back before becoming a real threat in 2009)

5. San Francisco Giants- 72-90 (Rich Aurilia. Bengie Molina. Omar Vizquel. Yikes!) 

Dodger Blue Notes-- Second baseman Tony Abreu is experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired abdominal area and will scale back his activities. Torre said the setback isn't serious. ...Dodger right-hander Cory Wade tossed an inning in the intrasquad game today and gave up a solo homer to Andre Ethier, 72 hours before Amaya Isabelle Wade was born in Ogden, Utah, weighing seven pounds and nine ounces. Amaya is Wade's first child and this marks the second Dodger baby this spring and it's still February. Jason Repko's wife, Traci, gave birth to the couple's first child last Thursday. ...Happy Birthday to former hurler Elwin Charles "Preacher" Roe, who turns 93 years young today. Roe pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1948-54 and went 93-37 (.715) with a 3.26 ERA for the famed "Boys of Summer." The Arkansas native was a sparkling 22-3 in 1951 and was 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA in three World Series starts following the 1949, '52 and '53 National League pennant-winning seasons. The Dodgers will be holding their annual free agent tryout this Friday, Feb. 29 on fields 5 and 6. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the players will start going through workouts at 9 a.m. Typically, the workout involves a 60-yard dash, batting practice, and throwing drills from shortstop to first (infielders) and right-center to third base (outfielders).  

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