The Dodgers wanted Clayton Kershaw to get in another start in the Minor Leagues to make sure he was ready to return. And the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner showed he was good to go Wednesday.
The three-time big-league All-Star struck out nine and gave up a pair of runs -- one earned -- on six hits but did not figure into the decision as Double-A Chattanooga fell to Tennessee, 4-3,.
Kershaw entered the game with a target of 75 to 80 pitches, but wound up exceeding that with 57 of his 86 pitches for strikes. He walked two and was hurt by three Lookouts' errors behind him.
"I would like to have gotten through six or seven innings, but I had a good time working with these guys," Kershaw told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "It's tough when pitch counts are in the back of your mind. Obviously the main goal of why I was here was to get my pitch count up and be ready for 100-plus pitches in the big leagues."
The 26-year-old suffered a strained Teres Major muscle in his upper back after his first start of the year when the Dodgers took on the D-backs in Australia. He made his first rehab start Friday for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. There, the hurler gave up a run on two hits over five innings.
"I've learned I don't like it," Kershaw said of his DL stint. "As much as you try and be a part of this team, our team is playing right now while I'm in Chattanooga. It's a weird process for me, and you kind of feel isolated a little bit. Hopefully I never have to do it again."
Wednesday was his first start in the Southern League since July 17, 2008. Since then, Kershaw has gone 78-46 with a 2.59 ERA in 185 Major League appearances while winning a pair of Cy Young Awards. The Texas native's appearance in Chattanooga gave the attendance at AT&T Field a boost, as the game was played before a sellout crowd of 6,318.
"I think it's pretty great for this city to get to see Clayton Kershaw, one of the great pitchers in the game doing a rehab assignment," Dodgers player development director DeJon Watson said. "It's a great opportunity for them to see our overall brand of baseball and having Clayton Kershaw as a model of what we do from an organizational standpoint.
Raydel Sanchez fell to 0-2, allowing two runs on two hits over four innings after taking over for Kershaw.
Erisbel Arruebarrena, the Cuban shortstop who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Dodgers in the offseason, was 2-for-4 with a double, triple and two runs scored for the Lookouts. Noel Cuevas had two hits and drove in a run.
Rafael Lopez slugged a solo homer with two out in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie for the Smokies. John Andreoli was 2-for-4 with three runs scored.