By Jon Weisman
Clayton Kershaw has thrown at least seven innings in each of his four starts this season, and the Dodgers would love for him to make it a fifth.
It would be going too far to say they need him to, but … it sure would be nice.
Of the Dodgers’ 20 games this season, starting pitchers have gone at least six innings 11 times — twice in the past seven games.
“I think those guys would be the first to tell you, we’ve got to get length,” Dave Roberts said. “Obviously, we came from (three games in) Denver, but I think to win a lot of games and to go deep in the postseason, we can’t beat up our pen, and so that starts with the starting pitching.
“Last night, I tried to get a little extra length with Ross (Stripling), and unfortunately in the sixth inning they scored a run, but I’ve kind of got to think about the pen usage as well as trying to win that night. There’s that fine balance, certainly.”
Kershaw is making his final start of April tonight. If he completes five innings, he would become the first Dodger starting pitcher to average at least seven innings per start in April since Derek Lowe in 2005. (He’s also on pace to post the highest April strikeout-walk ratio for a Dodger starting pitcher in history: 10.0.)
Next after Kershaw comes Scott Kazmir, who has been bothered somewhat by a sore left thumb and wrist. Kazmir through off flat ground today and is ready to make his scheduled start Wednesday.
“Kaz is a pro,” Roberts said. “He doesn’t want to use it as an excuse, but when you’ve got the wrist-thumb thing, it’s kind of hard for him to get on top of the baseball, so I think he was getting a little outside and under it. So just now even watching him play catch, he was kind of getting the extention he needed and the ball was coming out really well, so I do think it’ll make a big difference.”
Though starting pitcher Zach Lee was with the Dodgers over the past few days, the team didn’t feel the need to have Kazmir skip a start.
“With a guy like Kaz who’s been around a long time, I think you’ve got to give guys like that the benefit of the doubt,” Roberts said. “His track record as far as being a Major League player has got to carry some weight, and so when a player like that says he’s ready to make his start, then I think we’ve got to take him at his word.”
Kazmir didn’t throw off a mound in the four days since his last start. That might or might not be a one-time thing.
“I think if he comes out of tomorrow fine,” said Roberts, “then two days later he’ll throw a side. And then if it’s a little bit sore, then he might go away from it — I’m not sure.”
The Dodgers are six games into a stretch of 13 consecutive days with games. Then, however, they have off days next week on May 2 and 5 sandwiching a two-game series at Tampa Bay. Roberts said it’s possible they might tinker with the starting rotation, such as skipping a Stripling start to conserve the rookie’s usage.
Looking further down the road, there was positive news about rehabbing pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was recently battling a groin issue.
“Ryu had a pen today — 30 pitches — really good,” Roberts said. “Fastball, curveball, change, and repeated his mechanics. Really, the velocity was good, and that was encouraging today. Next step will be a pen either Friday or Saturday, and at that point, I don’t know if there’s going to be another pen or live hitters after that.”
Last but not least, Brandon McCarthy threw a bullpen session for club officials today, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Monday marked the one-year anniversary of McCarthy’s last start before Tommy John surgery.