Kershaw Getting Help from Koufax

There they were on the bullpen mound, the greatest of all time and the prospect with a seemingly unlimited future. Sandy Koufax stood beside Clayton Kershaw as the young man threw a bullpen Tuesday, and shared his experience with the young man so very much like him.

The two lefthanders have much more in common than the alphabetic-connection of their last name. Both acclaimed 'phenoms' as teenagers, both possessing a rocket-like fastball and a knee-buckling curve.

Although Kershaw obviously didn't see the Hall of Famer pitch, he retired over 40 years ago, he certainly knew who he was and how important the tips he received from him would be.

"It was awesome," Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. The two had met last Spring Training. "It was great. He gave me a couple suggestions. Any time you get advice from a guy like that, it's really cool."

Promoted to the Major League clubhouse on Sunday, Kershaw was issued uniform number 54, perhaps a prophetic occurrence, placing him between Don Drysdale's #53 and Orel Hershiser's #55.

Kershaw, who has dazzled during spring training with a 97-mph fastball and "12 to 6" curveball that brought back memories of Koufax, said he's been fighting a cold and didn't have his best curveball during the session, drawing help from Koufax.

"He gave me a couple of things to try, showed me how to hide the ball better, told me to stay healthy," Kershaw said. "He saw that my delivery is a little unorthodox, but he said not to change it, and I'll listen to him."

Kershaw uses a leg hesitation as he begins to shift forward, which hitters say makes him deceptive.

"It's not as fluid as some people," said Kershaw, "but I still get to the same spot as anybody else. I've done it a long time and I don't think I could change if I wanted to. It was suggested to help me stay back on pitches and I've just stuck with it."

Obviously, it works.

It Happens Every Spring
Each year, a non-roster or minor league player has a spring training to remember all his life. Tripp Cromer slugged seven homers, Chris Gwynn hit over .600, among others, but it always turns out the same. The team flys away to Los Angeles without them.

This year it seems as if George Lombard is the candidate for the honors.

A second-round draftee by Atlanta back in 1994, the 32-year-old Lombard has only one noteworthy major-league season to his credit, a 2002 campaign with Detroit.

The non-roster outfielder is hitting a stunning .615 with a triple and two homers.

Before signing a professional contract he turned down football scholarships to Georgia, Florida State and Notre Dame.

Now 32, and on the other side of the mountain as far as baseball age is computed, he's come close over six seasons with Atlanta, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Washington.

But he had a real shot last spring to make it with the Nationals, before a severe thumb injury in the fourth game of the spring and cut his season to only 54 minor league games.

He credits Dodgers hitting coach Mike Easler, his manager several years ago in the Dominican Winter League, with helping him find his stroke this spring.

But the long and the short of it is, he has only a miniscule chance to make the roster, will go to Las Vegas and unless some sort of injury occurs, he will finish the season there, take his free agency in the off-season and hope to catch on next year.

LaRoche 'Pinned'
Andy LaRoche, damaged thumb had two pins surgically inserted to stabilize the ligament that was torn when hit with a throw in the game last Friday.

Dr. Steve Shin performed the operation in Los Angeles and LaRoche is scheduled to undergo a second procedure in three weeks to remove the pins, after which he'll begin a rehabilitation program.

Doctors say LaRoche will be sidelined until at least mid-May.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Reliever Rudy Seanez, healing from a groin strain, pitched in a minor league game, but allowed two hits, a walk and a hit batsman in two-thirds of an inning. If he is not ready for the start of the season, it may make room for Yhency Brazoban, Greg Jones or Brian Falkenborg. ...Gary Bennett saw his first action in the Tuesday game against Florida after missing three days with lower back stiffness.

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