Clayton Kershaw hasn’t turned back the clock — but he has turned up the speed

first_imgClayton Kershaw has not found a way to turn back time. But he has found a way to recover some of what it took away.Through his first four starts this season, the Dodgers ace has reversed a four-year slide in his fastball velocity, regaining two miles per hour on the pitch. He averaged over 91.5 mph in each of his first three starts — the first time he has held that much velocity for three consecutive starts since his first three outings in the 2018 season — before falling just short with an average velocity of 91.425 mph against the Seattle Mariners Thursday.Against the Angels last week (when he allowed just one hit in seven innings), Kershaw’s fastball averaged 92.5 mph — the highest it has been in a single start since the 2017 World Series.“(Velocity) is not everything. But I knew it was in there. So I think that’s what’s frustrating,” Kershaw said after the start in Anaheim. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error The added velocity gives Kershaw more “margin for error,” Prior said and also makes his slider more effective.“Obviously the slider for him … when it’s good, it’s hard and it’s short and it basically just misses barrels,” Prior said. “I think that’s the other component. Now is the velocity the same on the slider even when his velocity is down? Sometimes it is. But I don’t think the movement and the sharpness of the bite is the same. That’s kind of the added benefit. Yes, it gives him some room on his fastball. But I think the arm speed also helps him lock in his really good slider.”BUEHLER STARTRight-hander Walker Buehler will take a 5.21 ERA into his fourth start of the season Friday — a slow start that recalls the 2019 season. Buehler had a 5.22 ERA after his first six starts last year, coming off a “slow-played” spring training prompted by some lingering fatigue from the 2018 postseason run.This year, Buehler was once again handled with care during the preseason after admittedly throttling back on his throwing program during quarantine.Prior said there has been “progress” over Buehler’s three starts.“First, we started to see the velocity start to tick up a couple starts ago. I think the last start his command started to tick up,” Prior said. “The slider, curveball haven’t been there for him yet. So that’s kind of handcuffed him in some situations where he wanted to throw it and it hasn’t had quite the bite that we needed and he’s paid the price for it. Or it’s just been balls which leads right back to more of a hard pitch.“But I think now we’re starting to see things slowly piece by piece being put together. Walker’s a guy who has some moving parts. I don’t necessarily mean from a delivery standpoint. But there’s a lot of things to get him to where he feels confident in everything. With a guy who’s featuring five plus-pitches sometimes, to lock all of them in at one time — those are the games when you see the 15-, 16-strikeout game. I do think we’re seeing progress. The goal with Walker is obviously to get him right but obviously get him right for the stretch run. As long as we see steps in the right direction we’re encouraged.”After that slow start in 2019, Buehler had a 2.88 ERA and held opposing batters to a .220 average over his next 24 starts.BAEZ OUTDodgers reliever Pedro Baez was placed on the 10-day Injured List before Thursday’s game with a strained right groin muscle.Baez has a 3.97 ERA in 11 appearances this season including giving up a solo home run in one inning of work Wednesday night. Baez allowed runs in each of his past three appearances and his velocity has been down this season. His fastball has averaged a career-low 94.4 mph.center_img “These last couple years, it’s been hard to figure out why it hasn’t been coming out the way I want it to. Obviously you grind and try to make good starts and stuff like that. We threw a lot of different things at it — our strength and conditioning guys, training staff, offseason stuff. Everybody did a great job with me, trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t work. I can’t pinpoint one specific thing. But all the things we’ve tried, there’s a lot of things that have stuck. It is gratifying, for sure.”Kershaw has been reluctant to talk about his visit to Driveline Academy last fall. The facility relies on sophisticated analytics to bring out more velocity in pitchers — Kenley Jansen and Alex Wood have also recovered velocity after visits to Driveline last offseason — and its devotees use a variety of weighted-ball exercises to improve arm strength. Kershaw could be seen doing the exercises during spring training in Arizona.Pitching coach Mark Prior gives the 32-year old Kershaw credit for being open-minded enough to look for answers.“Over time as we get older and he puts more miles on his body pitching, the body starts changing. Things start tightening. Things start loosening,” Prior said, aware of the history of back problems that has characterized Kershaw’s aging. “I think he was able to do some different things and attack it from a 360-degree approach to unlock some of the body to allow his arm to deliver the velocity that he was accustomed to.“I don’t think that’s anything that’s unusual for veteran pitchers especially guys that have been around for a decade to have to go out and … figure out where their body is in their 30s than it is in their young 20s. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out the right steps and the right things to do and now he’s seeing the dividends — in the velocity and in the command too.”last_img

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